Defend the Future of Indiana’s Solar Energy – Vote No on SB 309

Updated on Thursday, March 23, 2017.

Learn what action will make the most difference by going to Section V. below!

Please check out our one-page summary of SB 309 here or by clicking on the image to the right.

 

I. A Growing Global Sector.  Past, Positive Steps in Indiana

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The U.S. solar energy sector has now surpassed the number of jobs in the oil & gas drilling sector!   Indiana showed signs of seeking to be a part of this thriving industry in 2011 by enacting a new state policy, which enabled all types of customers (homes, small businesses, schools, factories) to take advantage of net metering, with systems up to 1 Megawatt in size.   Net metering reimburses self-generators of renewable energy that they feed back onto the grid, at the retail rate of electricity.   Customer-generators not only help advance such societal goals as environmental stewardship, but reduce distribution & transmission costs, and can improve electrical grid stability.

II. A Troubling Future in Indiana: The Threat of SB 309 in the 2017 Indiana Legislature
Unfortunately, Indiana is vulnerable to taking a major step backwards in tapping into clean energy like solar and wind.  SB 309‘s amended bill would generally create significant roadblocks to those homes, businesses, places of worship, community centers, and factories seeking to install solar panels and small wind turbines.

a. It forbids new net metering in five years.

By 2022, all investor-owned utilities will be prohibited from offering net metering to any customers who seek to install their system after 2022.   This does not apply to customers who are net metered before then; in that case, there are two types of treatment: if you have net metering prior to July 1, 2017, you’re grandfathered for 30 years when it comes to net metering (affects less than 1,000 Hoosiers).   If you install between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2022, you’re grandfathered only until 2032.   If you are a solar customer after July 1, 2022, you are ineligible for net metering.

b. It places a hard limit on who could benefit from net metering before 5 years.

If the total of customer-owned generators of small solar and small wind account for 1.5% of given utility’s total energy use (in their entire service area), then anyone above that 1.5% would not be eligible for net metering.

c. It forces a sharp reduction in the value that solar energy brings to the electricity grid.

43 states have net metering, including Indiana.   Indiana would move away from its sound, long-standing policy towards an approach that sharply reduces the value of solar from retail electricity to wholesale electricity rates, which is quite likely more than two thirds less.   This is unjust because customer-owned generators of solar energy bring great benefits to the grid (in terms of reduced/offset generation, transmission, distribution, and environmental compliance costs for utilities)  — benefits that more than exceed the costs that customer-owned generators place on the grid (see our citation in the next section).

d. Learn about more problems with SB 309 by viewing our one-page handout.

III. What’s at Stake
-Indiana claims to be an “all of the above” energy state, and yet SB 309 would seriously hamper the growth of small-scale solar and wind in Indiana, undermining one of the most promising pathways for Indiana’s energy future.
-The worse Indiana’s policy climate gets for renewable energy, the more likely Indiana will deter clean energy manufacturers, installers and maintenance persons from staying or being drawn to Indiana.
-Residences, places of worship, community centers, etc. who wish to align their energy choices with their values (i.e. environmental stewardship, care for creation, climate action, etc.) will be far less likely to do so given the significant barriers that would be erected if SB 309 were to pass.

  • SB 309 goes against the idea of creating an Indiana that is an attractive place to invest in, because it destabilizes the solar policy climate — just at the time in our nation’s history where solar job growth outpaces national job growth by 12 times!
  • SB 309 also totally disregards the fact that 8 out of 11 recent studies on solar energy, several of which were commissioned by state governments themselves, that net metering actually undervalues the true value of solar: In other words, the value of solar to the grid exceeds the retail price (net metered level)!

IV. SB 309 is a Renewed Threat to Customer-Owned Solar

Indiana’s powerful utility lobby, with ideological allies in the legislature, attempted to eliminate net metering in 2015 with the push to pass HB 1320.   Due to the outpouring of opposition to this bill from a diverse number of agricultural, consumer, environmental, libertarian, religious, and social justice groups — along with several solar entrepreneurs — Speaker Brian Bosma wisely chose to kill HB 1320 by not putting it to a House vote.

V. Our Latest Outlook on SB 309

a. Our Statement on SB 309, on Passage out of the Senate on Monday, February 27th.

The highly controversial anti-solar bill, State Senate 309, passed out of the Indiana State Senate on a vote of 39 to 9, despite overwhelming opposition among those who contacted their senators and despite an array of school leaders, entrepreneurs, pastors, homeowners, and public interest groups opposed to the bill.  “In a state that celebrates freedom, liberty, and customer choice, this bill does a great deal to discourage commitment to those principles: SB 309, in its current form, poses six significant obstacles to businesses, schools, churches, and homes installing rooftop solar — obstacles that remain even after the two amendments to the bill.  The Indiana House of Representatives would be wise to put a stop to this bill out of a sincere commitment to customer choice.”

b. Status in the Indiana House of Representatives

Six+ hours of testimony were heard on SB 309 in House Utilities on Wed., March 22nd, overwhelmingly in opposition.   You can view HEC’s testimony here.   Committee action on this bill will take place on Wed., March 29th.   It is unclear what will happen, as of this writing, but there is certainly discussion that there will be more amendments beyond those that were adopted on the 22nd.  The amendments on 3/22 deal with one of the six big problems that we have with the bill — it will eliminate our concern about the net metering benefit not transferring to a new property owner; we will be modifying our fact sheet above accordingly.

VI. What You Can Do Now

If you hear anything of broader value to the cause in your communication with your Representative, please email us at comments@hecweb.org, Subject: SB 309 Feedback.

1.) Ask Your State Representative to vote “No” on SB 309 should it reach the House Floor and request your state representative to “Urge the House Utilities Committee Chairman to not hold a vote on SB 309.   Instead, call on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to do a data-driven study — which at least ten conservative-leaning states have done — that allows our state to carefully develop sound public policy related to solar energy.”

2.) More broadly, please get involved in a deeper way by becoming an “Environmental Advocate”!