Defend the Future of Indiana’s Solar Energy – Vote No on SB 309
Updated on Thursday, February 16, 2017.
Learn what action will make the most difference by going to Section V. below!
I. A Growing Global Sector. Past, Positive Steps in Indiana
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).
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 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 Statement on SB 309, on Passage out of the Senate Utilities Committee on February 16th.
Despite the fact that opponents of SB 309 — school superintendents, entrepreneurs, faith leaders, environmental leaders, consumer leaders, and a diversity of citizens — far outnumbered those in favor of the bill, the Indiana Senate Utilities Committee passed the intensely controversial anti-solar bill, SB 309, on a vote of 8 to 2. “Governor Eric Holcomb made innovation one of the central themes of his State of State Address. Gov. Holcomb has made fostering entrepreneurship a central priority of his new Administration. Those priorities — innovation and entrepreneurship — are presumably ones embraced by his Indiana State Senate counterparts. But those priorities are not reflected in the amended version of SB 309. This bill, without any disclosed, objective, Indiana-specific study to justify this enormous change in policy, worsens the investment landscape for rooftop solar by forcing an arbitrary reduction in the value that our electricity grid assigns to solar energy and enabling the possibility of utilities imposing a new fixed fee on customer-owned solar generation; these concerns remain even with the amendment in Committee today. SB 309, if adopted into law, may well have long-term impacts in terms of deterring investment in solar energy by both homegrown entrepreneurs and those who may otherwise see Indiana as a promising investment destination for solar. The most constructive way forward is for the Indiana State Senate to call on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to do a study that transparently assesses the benefits and costs of solar and offers recommendations on changes needed to Indiana’s solar energy-related policies in order to ensure that our state is at the forefront of welcoming solar entrepreneurs and advancing solar innovation.
VI. What You Can Do: Take Action As Soon as Possible!
Ask Your State Senator to vote “No” on SB 309. “Don’t vote for 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.”