A recent article from The Republic, the Columbus, Indiana newspaper, sums up Indiana Senate Bill 309 admirably, in the very first paragraph.
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.
I have previously blogged about this bill, which is being mischaracterized by its sponsor.
Following the Senate committee hearing at which the measure was approved and sent to the House, the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance (IDEA), accused the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Brandt Hershman, of making statements that were “simply not true” in order to obscure his real intent. In a letter to the committee chair, the IDEA wrote
In fact, some of [Hershman’s] misstatements are so egregious we think they may have unfairly influenced Thursday’s committee vote,” the letter read. “For this reason, we strongly urge the committee not to move forward on its report on SB 309 until these errors can be rectified. We also believe committee members should have a chance to change their vote after they receive the correct information.”
The Republic article states what the bill would actually do.
This change would reduce people’s economic incentives to install solar. The bill also proposes to cap the net metering program to 1 percent of an electricity supplier’s most recent summer peak load, and eliminate net metering altogether in 2027. Collectively, these changes would unnecessarily stunt the development of this clean energy source.
Among the misstatements IDEA accuses Hershman of making are that net-metering goes away when utilities hit 1% of their baseload generation under current Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission rules. IDEA also says Hershman lied when he said that if the 1% net metering caps were met the utilities could go to a “buy all, sell all” mechanism under existing law.
As pv magazine reported last month, SB 309 is a fascinating Trojan Horse of a bill, which purports to support solar while enacting policies that would damage the state’s rooftop solar industry – particularly the residential sector – immediately.
The article in the Columbus Republic summarized the issues involved:
Solar power also offers many additional benefits, particularly for a state like Indiana that relies disproportionately on a single source of fossil fuel energy for electricity generation; about 75% of electricity in Indiana is generated from coal-fired power plants. Solar power is a clean, renewable source that does not result in emissions of pollutants that threaten human health. In addition, studies have shown that net metering programs create thousands of jobs. According to one recent estimate from the Solar Foundation, more than 200,000 people (nearly 1,600 in Indiana) currently work in the solar industry. The net metering policy is especially important for Indiana, since the state lacks other common policy measures to encourage solar energy development.
Over the past several years, the majority of states have conducted solar valuation studies. These studies tend to include direct measures of costs and benefits associated with residential solar. Out of 16 recent solar valuation studies recently written or commissioned by utilities, utility commissions, or independent analysts, all found net positive benefits, and 12 of the 16 found net benefits that exceeded the retail rate of electricity.
Indiana is on a slower path than most other states toward developing cleaner sources of energy. The General Assembly should be looking for ways to hasten the development of solar, wind and other sources of renewable energy, rather than considering policies that impede the state’s transition to a cleaner energy future. Indiana Senate Bill 309 is clearly a step in the wrong direction.
Calling Senate Bill 309 a “Trojan Horse” is an apt description. It’s an effort to disguise the utility-owned “army” with an innocent-seeming and distracting facade. Its passage would be yet another example of a special interest working with a compliant legislator to protect its bottom line at the expense of the public interest.