INDIANA: Proposed Bill (HB 1320) Could Mean Change For Solar Companies & Customers

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   January 16, 2015  /   Posted in 2015 Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Net Metering, solar, Uncategorized, Vectren  /   No Comments

Brad MortonMorton Solar, LLC

Brad Morton, President, Morton Solar LLC

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INDIANA: Proposed Bill Could Mean Change For Solar Companies & Customers

A new bill proposed in Indiana is causing some friction between solar companies and utility companies. After seeing House Bill 1320, the owner of a local solar energy company is speaking out against it. Some customers are backing him. "It's just great to have a teeny tiny little electric bill every month," says Lynnette Lewellyn. Lewellyn says she switched to solar power about a year ago, but that "teeny bill" could soon be much larger. "I don't think there's anything we can do," says Lewellyn. A bill introduced in Indiana has renewable energy users worried. If passed the measure would allow utilities to raise electric rates for customers using solar power. "It's counterintuitive to encourage people to do something to save fossil fuels and save energy, and then to turn around and penalize them," says Lewellyn. What the exact rate increase would be is still uncertain. Lewellyn says she believes electric companies are backing the bill because they want people using solar power to pay more for their use of a grid, or back up electricity system. "It doesn't make a lot of sense to us, as home owners with a solar facility that the state and the federal government are constantly trying to encourage us all to save energy, to not use fossil fuels. Here we spend all of this money to put in a facility like this, and now the state is looking at possibly charging us to have a facility like this," says Lewellyn. Brad Morton, owner of Morton Solar in Evansville, says he's speaking out against the bill. "It's really worse than we anticipated," says Morton. Morton says he spoke with local representatives about the bill, he's also turning to social media for support, and he may take his opposition to the state capital. "It's possible we will have to restructure our company, we might have to move to another state," says Morton. He says he's not sure how this bill could affect his business, but he's not waiting to find out. "We're going to do whatever it takes."

Vectren representatives say this bill is about fairness. They want solar power to continue to grow, and they support it. Here is a statement Vectren released regarding House Bill 1320.

Vectren's Statement on House Bill 1320

· The legislation is based on one principle: Every customer who generates their own power - through customer-owned generation, such as rooftop solar panels, should be compensated at a fair rate for the power they sell and should also pay a fair price for the use of the electric grid.

· This bill is being presented in an effort to ensure fairness among all residential and small commercial customers when it comes to paying for use of the electric grid.

· As a result of the current policy called net metering, a customer who generates their own power does not pay their fair portion of the costs of the utility infrastructure needed to serve them. Those costs are shifted to other customers.

· Without a policy change, the typical Hoosier family may pay significantly more to maintain the grid than a customer with solar panels - even though the solar customer is also using the grid when generating excess power, or at night or when the sun doesn't shine.

· As proposed, customers who currently have service agreements with Vectren to operate their own generation units would be "grandfathered" and not subject to any future changes to net metering policies or rate structures that are directly related to this legislation and may occur if it's passed.

· The goal of the bill is to create fair rates for everyone who uses the grid so that the electric grid in Indiana continues to be safe and reliable while supporting a healthy and growing economy, including the continued growth of renewable energy sources.

· The bill, as proposed, would allow for the leasing of solar panels and calls for consumer protection for those who lease or buy customer owned generation.

· Contrary to what you may see or hear about this bill, the legislation in no way seeks to deter renewable energy resources, such as solar power or wind energy.

· Vectren continues to be an advocate for renewable energy. We have power purchase agreements for 80 megawatts of wind power from wind farms near Lafayette, Ind., and we own and operate a landfill-gas-to-electricity plant near Winslow, Ind., that converts methane from landfilled trash into electricity. We continue to explore other affordable, Hoosier renewable energy sources to add to our portfolio, including solar options.

NOTE: Read the introduced version of HB 1320 HERE >

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