Indiana solar industry blasts Senate committee on anti-net-metering bill

Sen. Brandt Hershman is the author of Indiana SB 309, which critics say will end net-metering prematurely. Inovateus Solar strongly opposes the bill.

When the Indiana Senate’s Committee on Utilities voted to pass along Senate Bill (SB) 309 to the full Senate last week on a vote of 8-2 they had to expect blowback from solar advocates. After all, critics say the bill will essentially end net-metering in the state precipitously.

This morning, hellfire rained down on committee chair Sen. Jim Merritt in the form a blistering letter from the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance (IDEA), which accused bill sponsor Sen. Brandt Hershman of making statements that were “simply not true” to obscure his real intent.

“In fact, some of [Hershman’s] misstatements are so egregious we think they may have unfairly influenced Thursday’s committee vote,” the letter read. “For this reason, we strongly urge the committee not to move forward on its report on SB 309 until these errors can be rectified. We also believe committee members should have a chance to change their vote after they receive the correct information.”

The letter was signed by the organization’s president, Laura Ann Arnold.

Among the misstatements IDEA accuses Hershman of making are that net-metering goes away when utilities hit 1% of their baseload generation under current Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission rules. IDEA also says Hershman lied when he said that  if the 1% net metering caps were met the utilities could go to a “buy all, sell all” mechanism under existing law.

As pv magazine reported last month, SB 309 is a fascinating Trojan horse of a bill, which purports to support solar while enacting policies that would damage the state’s rooftop solar industry – particularly the residential sector – immediately.

The bill as introduced moved solar power from net metering to a “sell all, buy all” system, meaning that homeowners with solar on their rooftops wouldn’t be allowed to use the electricity they produce themselves and would have to sell all their electricity to the utility at a lower, wholesale rate. Then the homeowners would be required to buy all their electricity back from the utility at the higher retail rate. The bill also allows utilities to stop providing net-metering incentives as soon as such incentives equal 1% of a utility’s peak summer load, which could happen for some utilities as soon as three years from now.

Since then, the bill has been amended by Hershman to take out the “sell all, buy all” system, which makes his focus on it before the committee even more bizarre.

IDEA’s letter ends:

These inaccurate statements by Hershman already have gone viral on social media and may well cause Senate phone lines to further light up this week as a growing number of people learn of them.

We know your committee members want to be as well informed as possible as they work to sort through SB 309, and that they also value their credibility with the public. In that spirit, we implore you to reconvene the committee so this critical misinformation can be brought to light.

The full Senate is expected to vote on the bill on Thursday at the earliest, and the House will take it up sometime after that.

Update: This article was updated at 8:51 am EST on 2/21/17 to reflect that the bill has been amended to take out the “buy all, sell all” provision.