Solar net metering on track to end in Indiana

Effective July 1, Indiana customers who pay electric bills to one of five utility companies owned by Indiana investors: Duke Energy Indiana, Indiana Michigan Power, NIPSCO, CenterPoint (formerly known as Vectren), or AES Indiana (formerly known as Indianapolis Power & Light) — are no longer allowed to participate in net measurements when installing rooftop solar or any other type of distributed generation system.

A broad coalition of solar developers and installers, and consumer, environmental and solar advocates are working together to condemn this important policy change by the state legislature.

This public policy change was mandated by Indiana’s monopoly companies through Senate Enrolled Act 309 (SEA309), which was passed by the Indiana General Assembly and signed in 2017 by Governor Eric Holcomb.

“Instead of allowing homeowners in Hoosier and small Indiana businesses to manage their energy destination by using homemade energy, Indiana is taking a huge step backwards by dropping net metering,” said Zach Schalk, Indiana program director for Solar United Neighbors. “Solar on the roof is a powerful tool to improve the reliability and resilience of the electricity grid. It makes no sense to eliminate grid metering as grid operators warn of electrical capacity shortages and the threat of progressive blackouts.”

Grid metering is a fair and easy way to credit solar owners for the electricity they generate but don’t use themselves. Instead, the solar owner earns a bill for energy shared with his neighbors on the grid, valued at the same rate as electricity purchased from the utility — an even 1:1 swap. As a result of SEA 309, Indiana’s investor-owned utilities will replace net metering with a randomly designed Excess Distributed Generation (EDG) policy that credits new solar customers at a lower rate for the additional electricity they generate.

The low EDG rate is exacerbated by the dispute over how the EDG credits are calculated on customers’ accounts, which will further and significantly reduce the fee to EDG solar customers. The monopoly companies call the desired change in credit calculation ‘instant settlement’ instead of ‘monthly settlement’ under the existing legislation.

“It’s more appropriate to refer to this new method as no netting,” said Ben Inskeep, program director at Citizens Action Coalition. “No-netting is an underhand scheme designed by the investor-owned monopolies to hinder Hoosier consumers who are trying to free themselves from monopoly control and their confiscation and exorbitant energy prices.”

While no-netting was neither authorized by SEA 309 nor allowed under existing administrative rules, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) approved the no-netting methodology. The IURC endorsement of no-netting was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals (COA) after multiple groups, led by the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC), appealed the IURC’s final decision in the first EDG case filed by CenterPoint Energy.

Having lost their argument not to get netting from COA, the utilities, along with the IURC, have referred the matter to the Indiana Supreme Court in an effort to further discourage new customers from installing solar. The Indiana Supreme Court recently accepted the transfer of the CenterPoint EDG case, overturning the COA’s decision rejecting no-netting. The Indiana Supreme Court has scheduled the case for oral argument on Sept. 15 at 9 a.m.

Current and potential solar customers, as well as solar developers and installers, are now in limbo as a crucial aspect of how their electricity bills will be calculated is still pending in court. The combination of the end of grid metering and the potential change in how credit will be metered could make rooftop solar uneconomical for most Hoosier families, churches, businesses, schools and government offices.

“We understand that state lawmakers wanted to change how solar customers were credited for excess electricity returned to the grid,” said Laura Ann Arnold, president of Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance (IndianaDG). “But this rewrite of the Indiana statute by the IURC was a blatant decision, which will decimate Indiana’s nascent rooftop solar industry by discouraging Hoosier rate payers looking to install solar to lower their electric bills.”

Carmel Green Initiative, Citizens Action Coalition (CAC), Climate Reality Central Indiana Chapter, Direct Action Against CenterPoint Energy (DAACE), Earth Charter Indiana, Elders Climate Action Heartland Chapter, Energy Matters Community Coalition Inc, Faith in Place, Hoosier Environmental Council ( HEC), Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance (IndianaDG), Sierra Club Beyond Coal, Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter, Solar United Neighbors (SUN), Solarize Indiana and Valley Watch call on Indiana utilities to stop and push this attack on solar energy Urges Indiana policymakers to take immediate action in defense of Hoosier’s energy freedom by restoring fair compensation for customer-owned solar energy.

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