Tag Archives: bad public policy

Another Step Backward for Indiana

Well, they did it. The House passed Senate Bill 309–an assault on clean energy, specifically solar energy. It will next go to the Governor, who is unlikely to veto it.

Here is how I have previously described this bill.

If Senate Bill 309 passes, you will no longer be able to use the electricity from your rooftop solar panels and sell any excess back to the utility. Instead, you would be forced to sell all the electricity you generate to the utility at a much lower price than the utility charges you, and then buy back what you need at their substantially higher “retail” price. (The utilities will have to pay you at something called the “avoided cost” rate–which is somewhere between 2.5 and 4.5 cents per kilowatt hour.–You’ll have to buy it back at retail rates between 11 and 16 cents per kilowatt hour.)

Nice work if you can get it!

If SB 309 passes, it will price rooftop solar and small-scale wind generation out of the market.

During just the last five years, over a million Americans have installed solar, and the costs of both solar and wind generated energy have dropped dramatically. That’s good for the environment, and good for consumers’ pocketbooks, but it has cut into the profit margins of the big electrical utilities.

Fortunately for them, those big monopolies have good friends like Senator Hershman in the Indiana General Assembly.

I am hardly the only critic of this gift to Indiana’s utility companies.

The Republic, the Columbus, Indiana newspaper, was equally unimpressed with the legislation.

Indiana Senate Bill 309, introduced by Sen. Brandt Herschman, proposes to fundamentally change Indiana’s solar energy policy. The proposed modifications to the state’s net energy metering program are based on a lack of evidence and faulty logic, and would severely undermine the future of solar power in the state. Indiana legislators should oppose this bill.

The Republic article pointed out the importance of the net metering policy for Indiana, “since the state lacks other common policy measures to encourage solar energy development.” I’m shocked to discover that Indiana is not on the cutting age of energy innovation….

Opponents of the bill argued that lowering the amount of the credit will all but eliminate the incentive to invest in solar energy in the future. (I can attest to that; my husband and I were thinking of installing rooftop solar, and had been pricing our options. When this bill passed, we changed our minds.)

Representative Carey Hamilton–one of the most environmentally knowledgable members of the Indiana legislature–argued that the task of determining rates should be left to the IURC, rather than the legislature. During the committee hearing, when Hershman admitted that he had “come up with” the rate in the bill himself, she said

“A random decision by one of our colleagues for a rate is not how we should be making important decisions.” …

Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, who opposed the bill, pointed out that it creates uncertainty for small businesses and Hoosiers investing in the solar industry.

“We had six hours of testimony, and the only people who were in favor of it were the utilities,” Pierce said. “All of the other four and a half, five hours of testimony were people saying, ‘Why are you doing this to me?’”

Why are Indiana’s legislators doing this?

Because they can.

Safe seats, courtesy of the gerrymandering that Senator Hershman denies we have (despite being one of its top beneficiaries), allow our legislators to ignore their constituents’ opinions and interests, confident that they will face no repercussions at the polls.

Hoosiers live in a state where the legislators choose their voters, rather than the other way around. It is a system that positively guarantees bad public policies.

UPDATE: It appears that there is one more Senate vote required–the Senate must approve the bill with the changes made by the House. As I understand it, that vote takes place today. Call your State Senator and ask him/her to vote NO.