April 14, 2017
Dear Governor Holcomb,
On behalf of the Columbus Community Solar Initiative, this is to respectfully request your veto of SB 309, which will shortly be presented to you to sign, veto or allow to become law without your signature.
The Initiative requests your veto of this bill not only on behalf of its many participants and supporters, but also the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren which many of us (including the undersigned) have. We believe that this is a bill which dims their futures, as well as the future of our local Solar Initiative.
The Columbus Community Solar Initiative is an all-volunteer project initiated with strong community support in Fall 2015 with the initial goal of assisting homeowners, businesses and non-profit and governmental organizations to install 1,000 solar panels in Bartholomew County. To date, through the Initiative, eight homeowners and one church have installed 263 panels, six additional homeowners have contracted and are scheduled to install an additional 117 panels, and eight homeowners and one neighborhood center have executed non-binding letters of intent and received proposals from the Initiative’s partner vendor to contract for and install approximately another 180 panels. The Initiative is also scheduled to "kick off" in May another round of public information, solicitation of letters of intent, contracting and installation focused on public and private non-profit organizations, including schools, churches, community centers and social service organizations.
The immediate reason that the Initiative is seeking your veto of SB 309 is quite simple – after the bill was filed and became a public issue of considerable controversy and publicity, the Initiative received ZERO new letters of intent, closed ZERO contracts for additional installations, scheduled ZERO installations for dates after June 30, 2017, and was expressly advised by three of its participants presently pondering proposals that they would not contract for installations unless and until SB 309 had been defeated or substantially amended. Since the bill was amended to its current form, we have received one telephone inquiry from a prospective participant and had one existing participant advance from a preliminary proposal to a site visit preparatory to a final proposal. But, otherwise, the Initiative has remained in a state of suspended animation pending final action on the bill, with no new signed letters of intent or contracts.
With an amendment extending the 30-year net metering "grandfathering" provision to installations completed by December 31, 2017, as well as to successor owners of those installations, we would anticipate that some of our participants who have placed their projects on hold will decide to sign their contracts IF they can be guaranteed of completed installations by the new, later cut-off date. But, we also expect other current participants will decide not to proceed and that we will have few if any future participants because the provisions of and the circumstance surrounding SB 309 have led those present and prospective participants to lose faith in their elected officials when it comes to making future energy policy for the State of Indiana.
Stated frankly, those present and prospective participants believe that the Indiana Energy Association has exercised undue influence to prevail on the General Assembly to dramatically "change the rules in the middle of the game" -- notwithstanding a massive outpouring of public opposition by ordinary citizens, opinion leaders, numerous public interest organizations, and the great majority of the State's newspapers which have editorialized on the matter.
In this context, there are three aspects of the bill being presented to you which are most troubling to us:
- The bill is premised on the assumption that residential, commercial, governmental and institutional customers of investor-owned utilities who spend tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to "go solar" are somehow being subsidized by those customers who do not or cannot do so. Yet, this assumption is not based on any Indiana-specific study or evidence and is contrary to the great majority of studies and virtually all of the evidence developed in other states by credible, independent entities.
- The bill replaces the existing, simple "net metering" regime in which customer-generators and their utilities "swap" killowatt-hours on a one-for-one basis with a complex "net billing" regime in which so called "net excess generation" would be sold by customers and bought by utilities. These sales of electricity would be made at a legislatively-determined rate that the bill's author has himself characterized as "admittedly arbitrary," instead of at a rate determined by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to meet the traditional "just and reasonable" standard enshrined in both state and federal law and jurisprudence based on credible evidence of record duly considered after notice and hearing extended to all concerned.
- The bill makes this dramatic change in Indiana energy law and policy at a time when only one-eighth of one percent of the peak load of the State's investor-owned utilities is being met by "net metered" customer-owned generation. even though the "existing rules of the game" set a target of one percent of peak load and those rules are not scheduled to expire under current law until January 1, 2020. Moreover, this abrupt and dramatic change is being made with no proceeding, no investigation and no findings of fact or conclusions of law by the Utility Regulatory Commission, a blue ribbon panel, or a legislative study committee with the resources and the expertise required to investigate, evaluate and report on such a critical and controversial change in the State's energy law and policy.
Governor, with all due respect, to the vast majority of your constituents with an opinion on the matter, including the participants and supporters of the Columbus Community Solar Initiative, SB 309 becoming law under these circumstances would be nothing more than government of, by, and for the investor-owned monopoly utilities of this State.
Accordingly, the Columbus Community Solar Initiative respectfully requests that you exercise your ultimate authority as Chief Executive of the State of Indiana to veto SB 309 as contrary to the best interests of the State of Indiana and its citizenry, both at present and in the future.
Thank you for your attention and your consideration of our request.
Michael A. Mullett
Volunteer Administrative Coordinator
Columbus Community Solar Initiative