Lies provoke backlash on Indiana solar bill

It turns out “alternative facts” won’t fly in the Indiana Senate.

Sen. Brandt Hershman, the body’s Majority Leader and third-ranking Republican in the Senate, drew harsh criticism from Committee on Utilities, which heard the Majority Leader’s testimony on Senate Bill (SB) 309 last week. Hershman is the sponsor of the bill.

At issue is Hershman’s testimony about why his bill was so urgent. He claimed that without SB 309, everyone making use of solar net-metering would lose the benefit once utilities reached the current 1% cap.  

Turns out, Hershman pulled that “fact” out of thin air. No such provision exists under the current law, which make SB 309’s harsh curtailment of the program unnecessary. It’s no surprise that Hershman has been generously supported by the state’s utilities.

On Friday, Hershman walked back the lie while still calling it “accurate” (it is not accurate) and stole a page out of the national Republican playbook to defend the falsehood.

“This is a manufactured controversy from a liberal special interest group seeking to perpetuate a program that, as it grows, will hurt consumers while financially benefiting the group’s clients,” Hershman told the Associated Press (AP).

While it’s not entirely clear to whom Hershman is referring, the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance is the group that blew the whistle on Hershman’s perfidy last Monday.

As pv magazine has reported, 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.

As introduced, the bill 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 its introduction, 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.

The Committee on Utilities voted SB 309 to the full Senate 8-2. At least one member, however, said the only reason he voted for it was Hershman’s testimony. As the Daily News reported, Democratic Sen. Lonnie Randolph, of East Chicago, said he initially planned to vote against the bill, but was persuaded during the hearing.

“Knowing what I know now, I would not vote for the bill,” Randolph told the AP.

At press time, it’s unclear what the future of the bill is.