Brad Morton: Taking a Stand: Vote ‘no’ on House Bill 1320; Will you join him in taking a stand?

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 30, 2015  /   Posted in 2015 Indiana General Assembly, Net Metering, solar, wind  /   No Comments

Brad Morton, President of Evansville-based Morton Solar

Taking a Stand: Vote ‘no’ on House Bill 1320

Posted: Jan 29, 2015 6:41 PM EST
Updated: Jan 29, 2015 6:41 PM EST

(WFIE) –
By: Brad Morton

Solar energy prices are at an all-time low, and as utility rates continue to escalate, more Hoosiers are investing in solar and saving money by producing electricity on their rooftops.

Indiana’s current laws are working, but because it cuts into utility revenues, they are out to stop the growth of solar with Indiana House Bill 1320.

HB 1320 is an over reaching piece of legislation deceptively written by utility lobbyists to gut the solar industry in Indiana.

Although the language of the bill uses terms like Consumer Protections and Electricity fairness, the bill taxes solar producers by adding monthly fees and reducing the credit for solar production, returning any cost savings for homeowners to the utility company.

HB 1320 makes solar energy cost prohibitive, giving monopoly utility companies even more of a stranglehold on Hoosiers pocket books.

We believe this bill is designed to killer Indiana’s growing solar industry to eliminate any competition for the utility.

If you are considering solar for your home, or if you want to keep utilities prices in check, contact your local legislatures and tell them to vote NO on House Bill 1320

IndianaDG Editor’s Note:  You can speak out against HB 1320 by visiting this website and sending a message to the members of the House Utilities Committee:

http://action.dontkillsolar.com/page/speakout/hoosiers-don-t-let-monopoly-utilities-kill-your-right-to-choose-solar-?js=false

 

Indiana electric utilities want monopoly protection from solar and wind in HB 1320 (2015)? YES

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 29, 2015  /   Posted in 2015 Indiana General Assembly, solar, Uncategorized, wind  /   No Comments

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Utilities want to protect monopoly status

Kerwin Olson 1:51 p.m. EST January 28, 2015

Energy independence? Affordable energy? All of the above? The 2015 Indiana General Assembly stands poised to define these catch phrases as two proposals are making their way through the legislative process. Hoosiers should pay attention.

While claiming to believe in “all of the above,” our elected officials voted last year to end the Energizing Indiana program, which was creating jobs and saving ratepayers money. As a result, Gov. Mike Pence promised to deliver a strong efficiency proposal in 2015.

He delivered a bill, but it’s anything but strong. SB412, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, does little to help consumers save energy and everything to pad the pockets of the monopoly utilities. The bill would allow the utilities to establish their own energy efficiency goals and over-collect hundreds of millions of ratepayer dollars.

SB412 will lead to efficiency programs with negligible results and will make efficiency far too expensive, effectively pricing it out of the Indiana marketplace.

HB1320, authored by Rep. Eric Koch, would allow the monopolies to write their own rules regarding your ability to generate your own power, on your own property, and to connect your rooftop solar or backyard wind turbine to the grid. Additionally, utilities would be allowed to set the prices for the power you send to the grid. The utility will then sell that same power which you generated to your neighbors at the retail prices they set. The monopolies want to rig the game and tax the sun and the wind. [emphasis added]

HB1320 is being masqueraded by the utilities as policy designed to protect consumers and drive investments in distributed energy, like rooftop solar. Likewise, SB412 is being sold under the guise of creating cost-effective efficiency programs. In reality, these bills will eliminate your freedom to make your own energy choices and will allow the utilities to turn ratepayer-funded efficiency programs into huge profit centers.

The monopolies are trying to kill the only competition they have. Energy efficiency and customer-owned distributed energy, especially rooftop solar, create competition by allowing us to use less of their product and hand over less of our money to them. Rooftop solar and efficiency are threatening their revenues and profits, and bringing into question their monopoly business model. [emphasis added]

The utilities are working hard to ensure that “all of the above” does not include energy efficiency and rooftop solar. And rather than help our state work toward energy independence, they’re doing all they can to keep us dependent on them.

Achieving energy independence, increasing competition and protecting consumers from monopoly abuse is something that most of us agree on. Let’s create policies that will make our businesses, farms, homes and schools as efficient as possible.

Let’s craft policies that capture the potential of the sun and harness the power of the wind to generate the energy we need, right here in Indiana. [emphasis added] These policies would put money in the pockets of Hoosiers by reducing monthly bills for all consumers and creating new jobs that can’t be outsourced. That’s independence. Moreover, that’s freedom.

Kerwin Olson is executive director of Citizens Action Coalition.

IndianaDG Editor’s Note: A hearing in the House Utilities Committee on HB 1320 is expected next Wednesday afternoon, February 4th , however, details cannot be confirmed at this time. 

Also please visit http://dontkillsolar.com/tusk/where-we-are/indiana/ 

Why you need to pay attention to Indiana HB 1320 (2015) about solar, wind and net metering; Yes, YOU!

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 26, 2015  /   Posted in 2015 Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Net Metering, solar, wind  /   No Comments

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Why you need to pay attention to solar energy legislation

I&M President Chodak discusses company’s proposed 16 MW solar PV plan

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 26, 2015  /   Posted in American Electric Power (AEP), Indiana Michigan Power Company (I&M), Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), solar, wind  /   No Comments

I&M President Paul Chodak III

January 26, 2015 1:01 AM

I&M shines light on power diversity

 by Paul Chodak III

Solar power is coming to customers of Indiana Michigan Power. It is emission-free and is becoming a cost-effective source of power for our customers. So, we are looking forward to solar becoming a much larger part of our generation fleet.

Later this year, I&M will pass an historic milestone: More than half of I&M’s generation capacity will be emission-free. As we adapt to changing rules and customer needs, the percentage of emission-free power will increase as I&M adds solar to our generation portfolio.

Our interest in solar generation isn’t different than that of homeowners who choose to install panels on their roofs. We want to reduce our carbon footprint and increase our use of renewable energy, helping our customers and our company achieve a common goal.

I&M plans to take a significant first step in building our solar generation by adding 16 megawatts of solar capacity by the end of 2016, equivalent to installing rooftop solar on 3,200 homes. Our plans, now pending before the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, call for five solar facilities to be located in areas served by I&M.

By operating and owning the facilities, I&M will gain valuable knowledge as our determined and adaptive employees become proficient in operating solar facilities and incorporating the solar energy onto the electric grid. We will use those best practices in planning additional solar facilities, as our long-term plans anticipate eventually adding more than 500 megawatts of solar to serve our customers.

I&M is dedicated to serving our customers’ energy needs, and customers have the right to choose to install solar systems. We support that choice and will work to help customers with those installations. However, cost data show that larger-scale, central solar costs 30 percent to 50 percent less than rooftop solar.

Adding solar further broadens our already-diverse generation portfolio, which also includes nuclear power, hydroelectric, coal and wind. The recent addition of 200â megawatts of wind power from the Headwaters Wind Farm about 75 miles south of Fort Wayne marks an 80 percent increase in our wind generation. Diversity in generation sources provides greater flexibility. We will continue to add renewables where and when they make sense for our customers.

We are also addressing carbon emissions with ambitious, responsible programs to encourage our customers to use energy more efficiently. Though you may have heard that the statewide Energizing Indiana program offered energy efficiency programs ended Dec. 31, I&M continues to offer residential and business customers a variety of customer-friendly incentives and information to help conserve energy (see www.electricideas.com).

The move to add solar comes even as I&M works to improve our traditional energy delivery systems to better serve our customers. We are modernizing and significantly improving the reliability of our grid by rebuilding lines and replacing equipment which has served us well for multiple decades. By enhancing reliability while maintaining affordable customer rates, together we can make our communities stronger.

Paul Chodak III is president and chief operating officer of Indiana Michigan Power. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

Utilities push anti-free market solar bill HB 1320 but they want to sell solar and DG themselves

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 24, 2015  /   Posted in 2015 Indiana General Assembly, Duke Energy, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Indianapolis Power and Light (IPL), Net Metering, solar, wind  /   1 Comments

Utilities favor legislation changing economics of rooftop panels

January 24, 2015
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Joe Bowling is executive director of the Englewood CDC, which has solar panels on the roof of its Rural Street offices. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

In the estimation of electric utilities, rooftop-solar users like Joe Bowling are freeloaders.

They receive credits for producing energy beyond their own needs, and they still have access to the grid whenever they need it. The problem, utilities argue, is that the cost of maintaining the grid doesn’t go down; it shifts to the rest of the customer base.

That’s why investor-owned utilities are lobbying for a bill authored by House Utilities and Energy Committee Chairman Eric Koch that would allow them to change the economics of generating energy on-site and selling back to the grid, which is known as net metering.

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Currently, utilities like Indianapolis Power & Light and Duke Energy have to give net-metering customers credit at the retail price of electricity. If a customer pays 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, he will be credited at that rate for any excess. Koch’s bill, House Bill 1320, would allow the utilities to pay lower rates and to charge additional fees for connecting solar or wind systems to the grid.

“For sure, they provide a real service in maintaining the grid,” Bowling said of the utilities. “Whatever that true cost is, we ought to pay it. No one here is trying to put our local utilities out of business.”

That question about the true cost of maintaining the grid, and whether solar, wind and other forms of “distributed generation” raise or lower it, is a thorny one. It’s at the heart of a national debate between utilities and solar installers and environmental interests, and thanks to Koch’s bill, Indiana is the new battleground.

Advocates of net metering say it’s no coincidence utility companies are lobbying to change their fee structures as solar-panel prices are plummeting. They say utilities play up the fixed costs of the grid without accounting for the money they save because of solar users who reduce demand at peak times, like hot summer days.

Bowling’s home solar would be grandfathered under HB 1320, but the bill could make future projects less attractive. Englewood Community Development Corp., where Bowling is executive director, is planning to build affordable apartments for senior citizens and hopes to offer solar-driven net metering to each unit.

The fact that utilities have already labeled net-metering customers as cost-shifters is worrisome, Bowling said. He likens their argument to Wal-Mart’s complaining about backyard gardeners who also shop at grocery stores, and then asking for a law that would require them to sell their produce to Wal-Mart at wholesale prices.

koch-eric-mugKoch

“That’s unjust. That’s monstrous. That’s evil. We ought not stand for it,” Bowling said. “We would not stand for it if it were a food issue. Because energy stuff is so mysterious and makes people’s eyes glaze over, you can get away with just about anything.”

Net-metering advocates say Koch’s bill would gut the program in Indiana. There were only 523 participants statewide in 2013, but the program has grown quickly. More than 300 net-metering customers have been added since 2011.

Koch, a Republican from Bedford, said his goal is to promote distributed generation, but to do so with fair ground rules, before rooftop solar becomes widespread in Indiana.

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If utilities are allowed to credit generated solar energy at wholesale—not retail—rates, the time it takes Joe Bowling to recoup the money he spent on his home solar system could double. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)

“There’s a narrative out there that this is the utilities versus the little guy,” Koch said. That’s not the case, he said.

“The utilities can’t do anything unilaterally,” Koch said. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission would have to approve each utility’s net-metering rates and fees. “It’s a mini trial,” he said. “We have a very good commission and a very good process.”

Koch acknowledged that utilities would probably reduce the value of their credits. Rural electric co-operatives, which aren’t regulated by the IURC, already offer credits at less-than-retail rates, he said, yet they still have viable programs. [emphasis added]

Mark Maassel, president of the Indiana Energy Association, which represents investor-owned gas and electric utilities, said Indiana’s net-metering rule isn’t fair because it requires utilities to pay three times as much for energy as they would on the open market.

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Utilities don’t want to eliminate distributed generation, Maassel said. In fact, he said they might want to get into the business. [emphasis added]

Other provisions of Koch’s bill make it legal to lease solar systems in Indiana and create disclosure rules and other consumer protections. Leasing could make solar even more affordable, as in Arizona and other states, Maassel said.

Low-income burden?

In a twist on typical political alliances, utilities are backed by at least one environmental group and one minority coalition as they push to change net-metering rules.

Koch pointed to a joint statement issued a year ago by the Edison Electric Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council, which asks state regulators to rethink the way utilities recover their costs, in light of new technology that allows customers to sell energy back to the grid.

The National Policy Alliance, a group of African-American politicians, issued a resolution saying net metering shifts the burden to low-income customers, a disproportionate number of whom are black.

Maassel pointed to a detailed study in California that found net-metering customers, which number around 150,000 in the Golden State, pay for 88 percent of their fixed costs. Most of them had consumed large amounts of energy before they went to net metering, and they were wealthier than typical customers. The median household income among net-metering customers was $91,210, compared with $63,821 across the territories of three investor-owned utilities.

A competing California study, cited by the Hoosier Environmental Council, found that net metering didn’t shift costs onto traditional customers and instead provided a small net benefit.

How net metering affects a system depends much on specific electricity rates. In California, customers pay higher rates as they use more and more electricity, but the opposite is true for IPL and Duke customers in Indiana, said Laura Ann Arnold, president of the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance, which includes solar and wind installers, photovoltaic developers and electrical engineers.

Yet Maassel doesn’t hesitate to conclude that net metering in Indiana shifts a large burden to traditional customers.

“If you installed a windmill in your back yard … all of the customers around you would have to pay an increased amount of money because of your system,” he said. “They could easily pay twice what you would pay in terms of the wire coming out of your house.” [empasis added]

Net-metering math

After the Englewood CDC installed a solar array at its offices on Rural Street, Bowling began to look for an opportunity to add solar to his home nearby.

He put himself on a waiting list for IPL’s $1,575 rebate, which expired at the end of 2014, and just before the end of the year, he and two neighbors were notified of their eligibility.

Because of the rebate, Bowling hopes to recover the cost of his $4,500 system in about 15 years. If he qualifies for a federal income-tax credit as well, the payback period could be as short as seven years.

Bowling’s system is so small, he thinks he’ll generate only a little excess energy in the summer months. Even without selling much back to the grid, the current net-metering system made solar a viable investment.

Electricity prices are the key factor. IPL customers pay about 8 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 1,000 kilowatt-hours they use each month. As long as the utility credits him at that retail rate, Bowling’s system saves him $201.60 a year.•

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