In response to Governor Holcomb signing Senate Bill 309 (rooftop solar), I understand that utility companies will continue to invest in solar and that jobs will be created in the state. But the recent debate at the State House is really a consumer cost issue. Why can’t you have both –utility sponsored solar, as well as a competitive marketplace providing consumer choice? As it stands now, the utilities are moving quickly to control their side and the ratepayer side of the electric meter: the State House killed energy efficiency goals requiring utilities to save energy, the IURC keeps approving increases in the flat monthly charge on our bills, and 309 allows for additional charges to solar customers. Utility sponsored solar programs - although necessary - will be more expensive given their high rates of return and charging for depreciation and maintenance. For individuals who want to net meter, taking out a loan at 4% interest is a lot cheaper than being charged 11% (standard Indiana utility return on equity). Moreover, a competitive marketplace for community solar would tend to keep costs under control rather than having a monopoly with no competition charging essentially extortionist rates. (The IURC has done little to prevent utilities from doing what they want.) As such, the state should be supporting third party financing (meaning no money down for the ratepayer) with competitive bidding processes, along with utility-sponsored solar programs (particularly in low-income areas with ratepayer support). Once Indiana's electric utilities are finished with their attack on ratepayer control of their own utility bills, there will be little customer benefit for solar (or energy efficiency measures for that matter), eliminating ratepayer incentive to do these things. No matter what actions ratepayers take, electric utilities will simply charge us more in some other area, eliminating any savings we may have realized. This goes for small and large commercial and industrial facilities as well.
Indiana will have solar power. The question is who will benefit and why do we have to do everything under the monopoly utilities’ thumbs? From a cost perspective as state policy stands now, the utilities will benefit by far the most with the passage of Senate Bill 309. We should allow both utilities and the market to work here, not just the monopoly utility industry. Ratepayers should have a chance to save money by reducing their electric usage, not be punished every time we decide to invest in our homes and businesses to reduce our electric demand - which, incidentally, also benefits the electric system as a whole, i.e. all ratepayers.
The unspoken energy policy in Indiana seems to be: Ratepayers aren’t allowed to reduce their utility bills, and utility companies can extract as much wealth as they possibly can from Hoosiers regardless of the consequences.
We need an electric system that serves the economy; not an economy that serves the utility industry.
Board Chair, Citizens Action Coalition
IndianaDG Note: This has been submitted to numerous newspapers in Indiana.