Quantcast
Popular

New Bill Could Kill Indiana's Rooftop Solar Sector

Lawmakers in Indiana have introduced a new measure that could wipe out the state's net metering system within a decade and squash the state's burgeoning solar energy sector.

For the past 12 years, Indiana's net metering policy has credited homeowners and businesses with rooftop solar systems for the excess power their panels generate and send to the grid. However, Senate Bill 309 (SB309), authored by Republican State Senator Brandt Hershman, aims to eliminate this scheme by 2027 and replace it with a controversial "sell all, buy all" system.

Under this proposed bill, rooftop solar owners would be forced to sell their electricity to the utility at a lower rate and buy it back at a higher rate. According to PV-Tech, solar consumers would have to sell their energy to the utility at wholesale rate of around US$0.03/kWh and then buy it back at the higher retail rate of around US$0.11/kWh. Apparently, the balance goes towards the utility's expenses for maintaining the grid.

"Mandatory 'buy-all/sell-all' approaches greatly infringe on customers' energy independence and this bill should be cause for great alarm for consumers in the state of Indiana," Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), told EcoWatch.

"Rooftop solar power that is exported from customers' homes or businesses to the grid is quickly absorbed by neighboring homes and businesses. Compensating that local power at average wholesale prices significantly undervalues the benefits of producing that power—such as avoiding the need to build new power lines—and ignores the fact that solar power is produced during daytime peak periods when wholesale energy prices are higher," Gallagher added. "Whether it's installing energy efficiency measures or consuming on-site generation, customers should always receive the full retail price value for behind-the-meter choices that reduce grid-supplied energy consumption, resulting in benefits for the entire community."

Laura Arnold, president of the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance, explained to Midwest Energy News, that the measure is akin to confiscating private property.

"It's like saying, 'Yeah, you can have your solar panels but you really don't own them because you can't decide what to do with the electricity you're producing yourself,'" Arnold said.

While the bill aims to stop net metering in 10 years, as the Indiana Business Journal noted, the state could put an end to it even earlier:

Language in the measure stipulates that net metering would end no later than July 2027—which supporters say gives the solar industry plenty of time to adjust.

But it could happen sooner. According to current rules, a utility such as Indianapolis Power & Light Co. doesn't have to offer net metering to customers once it reaches a cap of providing net metering equal to 1 percent of its summer peak generation.

PV-Tech says the bill "has not yet been seen in other states and is a unique approach from the Indianan legislators."

Opponents of the bill say it would discourage homeowners and businesses from investing in solar systems, which can be costly to install.

"One of the fundamental reasons people put solar panels on their roofs is to reduce consumption from the grid—to be self-reliant, sustainable, efficient," Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, told Indiana Business Journal. "That should be encouraged to the highest degree."

Additionally, the bill could have ramifications for Indiana's nascent solar sector. More than 72 solar companies operate in the state and employs about 1,567 people.

Incidentally, renewable energy is poised for massive growth in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced in a report that U.S. solar employs more workers than any other energy industry, including coal, oil and natural gas combined.

"SB 309's anti-American limitations on how consumers can use their own rooftops could significantly undermine the state's clean energy progress and, in turn, the well-paying jobs that solar now provides the state of Indiana," Gallagher said.

But critics of net metering contend that solar customers are not paying their fair share for use of the grid.

"Net metering creates a situation where customers with solar panels are being paid by customers without solar panels," Mark Maassel, president of the Indiana Energy Association, told Indiana Business Journal. "That's just not fair."

The legislation is set for a hearing before the Senate Utilities Committee on Feb. 2.

Indiana's net metering system actually survived an attack two years ago. In 2015, state representative Eric Koch (no relation to the Charles and David Koch) introduced a bill that would have reduced net metering payments and added fees to solar customers. That bill failed to advance.

So-called " solar wars" are waging in several states such as Nevada, Florida and Arizona. Reports have emerged of billionaire oil barons Charles and David Koch and their political allies trying to kill net metering as they see growth in renewable energy as a threat to their businesses.

Hershman, the state senator who introduced the bill, has not commented to media about the measure.

An April 2016 report from the Center for Biological Diversity determined that Indiana was among the top 10 sunniest states in the country actively blocking rooftop solar development through overtly lacking and destructive policy landscapes.

Indiana, along with Alabama, Florida, Georgia,, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin, account for more than 35 percent of the total rooftop-solar technical potential in the contiguous U.S., but only 6 percent of total installed capacity.

"Thanks to weak and nonexistent policies, the distributed-solar markets in these states have never been given a chance to shine," said Greer Ryan, sustainability research associate with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the report. "There's room for improvement in solar policies across all 50 states, but it's especially shameful to see the sunniest states fail to lead the transition from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy."

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
The turkey ranch in Sonora is where Diestel keeps its pasture-raised birds. Jeanne Cooper

Popular Diestel Turkey Sold at Whole Foods Tests Positive for FDA-Prohibited Drugs

Diestel Turkey, sold by Whole Foods and other retailers at premium prices, says on its website that its "animals are never given hormones, antibiotics or growth stimulants."

But Diestel Turkey samples tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggest otherwise, leading consumers to wonder: Can these companies be trusted?

Keep reading... Show less

Slaughter of 90,000 Wild Horses Could Proceed Despite 80% Objection From American Public

The American Wild Horse Campaign on Thursday harshly criticized Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's appointment of Brian Steed, the former chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), as the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as dangerous and out of step with the wishes of the vast majority of Americans.

"Rep. Stewart is leading the charge to slaughter America's wild horses and burros over the opposition of 80 percent of Americans," said Suzanne Roy, AWHC Executive Director. "Putting his deputy at the helm of the agency charged with protecting these national icons is like putting the wolf in charge of the chicken coop."

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

Bright Idea: This Lamp Harvests Its Own Energy From Plants

Now that's green energy. Dutch product designer Ermi van Oers and her team are working on the first atmospheric lamp powered by living plants.

The Living Light does not require an electric socket. It can harvest its own energy through the photosynthetic process of the encased plant, which means the potential of this off-grid light source could be "huge," as Van Oers told Dezeen.

Keep reading... Show less

Landmark Youth Climate Lawsuit Heads to Federal Appeals Court

There has been a significant development in the constitutional climate change lawsuit so far successfully prosecuted by 21 youth plaintiffs: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to hear oral argument over whether the Trump administration can evade trial currently set for Feb. 5, 2018. Oral arguments will be heard before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Dec. 11 and can be watched on a live stream beginning at 10 a.m. PST.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Martin Schulz / Flickr

Pope Francis: These 4 'Perverse Attitudes' Could Push Earth to Its Brink

Pope Francis issued a strong message to negotiators at the COP23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany on Thursday, warning them not to fall into "four perverse attitudes" regarding the future of the planet—"denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions."

Francis, who has long pressed for strong climate action and wrote his 2015 encyclical on the environment, renewed his "urgent call" for renewed dialogue "on how we are building the future of the planet."

Keep reading... Show less
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza sits near the Statoil contracted oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen. Greenpeacce

Groups Sue Norway Over Failure to Protect Environment for Future Generations

By David Leestma

Greenpeace and the Nature and Youth environmental group opened a lawsuit this week over Norway's failure to abide by its constitutional obligation to safeguard the environment for future generations.

The lawsuit, which focuses on local environmental damage and the contribution that oil extraction will make to climate change, challenges 10 licenses issued by the Norwegian government for exploration in the Barents Sea. Given to Statoil, Chevron and other oil companies, the licenses violate Norway's constitution and the Paris agreement, according to the plaintiffs. Government lawyers claim the case is a publicity stunt that risks valuable jobs.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Food
Lia Heifetz of Barnacle Foods hauls kelp for salsa. Bethany Sonsini Goodrich

A Plea for Kelp: These Farmers and Chefs Want to Make Seaweed the Next Superfood

By Sarah Bedolfe

Summer in southeast Alaska is kelp season for the cofounders of Barnacle Foods, Lia Heifetz and Matt Kern. Each week, the pair watches the tides and weather, waiting for the right moment to cruise out to the abundant kelp beds offshore. They lean over the side of the boat and pull up the fronds and stalks, one piece at a time. As soon as they get back to shore, they start processing the day's harvest into a local delicacy: kelp salsa.

Salsa and Alaskan algae might seem like odd bedfellows, but for Barnacle Foods, it's a calculated decision. The kelp's savory notes make the salsa's flavor "a little more explosive," according to Kern. And the pairing is also a practical one. "Salsa is such a familiar food item," Heifetz said. It's "a gateway to getting more people to eat seaweed."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Lorie Shaull / Flickr

Massive Pipeline Leak Shows Why Nebraska Should Reject Keystone XL

About 210,000 gallons (5,000 barrels) of oil leaked Thursday from TransCanada's Keystone oil pipeline near Amherst, South Dakota, drawing fierce outcry from pipeline opponents.

The leak, the largest spill to date in South Dakota, comes just days before Nebraska regulators decide on whether its controversial sister project—the Keystone XL (KXL) Pipeline—will go forward.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!