Net Metering Bill Changed After Long Debate, But Still Moving

Mar 22, 2017

 

A bill that would change net metering for solar energy production got its first hearing before a House committee Wednesday, continuing to draw debate from a wide range of stakeholders.

The House Utilities committee worked through lunch to hear 6 hours of testimony from 60 individuals on Senate Bill 309.

Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), who authored the bill, says there’s been a lot of misinformation around it.

“The primary focus of the opposition has been on the issue of solar power, and yet the bill itself does a variety of other things,” Hershman says.

The bill also helps businesses increase energy efficiency and promotes biomass energy production from animal or bacterial waste.

But the majority of people who testified, both for and against, did focus on the bill’s net metering provisions.

Kerwin Olson, director of the Citizens Action Coalition, says the state’s current net metering policies should remain in place and the bill is bad for Hoosiers.

“This bill is anti-free enterprise, anti-free market, anti-consumer, anti-environmental,” says Olson. “And should be rejected in its totality by this committee.”

SB 309 would phase out the state’s current net metering policy, which allows rooftop solar customers to sell excess energy at the retail rate. The bill would gradually lower that – to 125 percent of the wholesale rate – over the next 30 years.

As originally written, the bill allows Hoosiers who install solar systems by July 1 to continue receiving that retail rate until 2047. The committee amended the bill to extend that deadline through the end of the year. The amendment, written by Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville), also applies that grandfathering to the property, not the property owner who installed the system.

“I think that this is only fair, that, when we change policy, that we make sure that investments made by Hoosiers — that we honor those investments,” says Hatfield.

Two other amendments were added to the bill.

But some who came to testify want to see the bill amended further — like Eric Hesher, a solar developer from northeast Indiana. He says protecting the state’s current net metering policy is important for business.

“Solar is enabling Indiana businesses to be more competitive in the marketplace,” says Hesher.

Hesher also wants to see limits on the fees utilities may charge net metering customers for access to the grid.

According to Utilities Commission Chair Rep. David Ober (R-Albion), the bill may get a vote in committee as soon as next week.