Ind. lawmakers OK bill to gut net metering rates 

Source: Daniel Bush, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, February 20, 2015

Indiana lawmakers yesterday passed legislation that would lower net metering rates and tax solar energy consumers, despite strong opposition from renewable energy advocates who claim the bill is designed to kill the state’s solar industry.

The bill, approved by the Indiana state House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee, would reduce the amount utilities must pay to consumers for excess energy generated by residential solar systems.

The legislation also would allow utilities in Indiana to charge solar customers a user fee to help pay for the costs of maintaining the state’s power grid. Under the law, utilities would set the new net metering and user fee rates.

The vote was cheered by industry groups who claim that solar customers charge utilities too much to buy back energy and don’t pay their fair share to maintain the electrical grid.

“A consumer who doesn’t have solar is paying more to maintain and operate the grid [than someone with a solar system], and that strikes us as unfair,” Dave Arland, a spokesman for the Indiana Energy Association, said in an interview.

Opponents said the bill is aimed at gutting the state’s solar energy industry.

“This bill would eviscerate net metering. From our perspective, it’s nothing more than utilities trying to get ahead of solar and protect their” business interests, said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Indiana-based advocacy group Citizens Action Coalition.

Renewable energy advocates said they would continue fighting the bill once it moves to the state Senate. The bill will likely be approved by the full state House early next week, sources said.

“I don’t think we have the votes in the House to kill it just yet,” said Jodi Perras, a senior representative for Sierra Club Indiana’s Beyond Coal campaign. “But that doesn’t mean that it’s over. There are a lot of senators that are concerned” about the proposal.

The showdown comes as Wisconsin and other states debate net metering policy and Congress faces new questions about federal solar policy. Solar producers are lobbying Congress to extend a tax credit that is set to fall from 30 to 10 percent at the end of next year.