Indiana’s anti-DG solar bill passes Senate with ease

Yesterday in Indianapolis, the Indiana Senate passed controversial SB 309 on a 39-9 vote.

The Indiana Senate yesterday approved the controversial anti-net-metering bill, Senate Bill (SB) 309, on a 39-9 vote despite growing public opposition and accusations of skulduggery on the part of one of the bill’s authors.

After passage, two state House of Representatives members, Rep. David Ober and Rep. Edmond Soliday, have accepted responsibility for shepherding the bill through their side of the legislature. No date for a vote has been set, but the House can be expected to act quickly.

As pv magazine has documented since SB 309 was introduced in January, the bill has been surrounded by controversy, with organized opposition from the solar industry, including recent accusations that the original author of the bill, Indiana State Senator Brandt Hershman, lied to his colleagues on the Senate Committee on Utilities in an effort to ramrod his bill through.

On the surface, the bill keeps solar net-metering in place until 2027. Language buried deep in the bill, however, could kill the popular program long before the proposed expiration date.

The bill clearly favors utility-scale solar over privately owned rooftop solar systems. Much of the bill could damage the state’s rooftop solar industry – particularly the residential sector – immediately.

As introduced, SB 309 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. Instead, they 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. Indiana solar advocates in the state say this is akin to having the utilities seize the solar panels from customers’ roofs and charging them for the privilege.

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.

Hershman, the body’s Majority Leader and third-ranking Republican in the Senate, drew harsh criticism from his colleagues on Monday after the solar industry sounded the alarm about the lies Hershman told during his testimony on Senate Bill (SB) 309 last week.

At issue was 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. No such provision exists under the current law, which make SB 309’s harsh curtailment of the program unnecessary.