A bipartisan bill in the state Senate would bring back higher rates for net metering in Indiana. At a press conference on Monday, sponsors of the bill urged supporters to contact the chair of the Senate utilities committee to make sure the bill gets a hearing.
Net metering gives people with solar panels credits for any excess energy that they deliver to the grid. Two years ago, Indiana passed a law to slowly decrease the amount solar customers get for that energy — from the higher retail rate to the lower wholesale rate.
Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis), who authored this new bill, says that was a mistake.
“When we decided to phase it out, we were really phasing out the freedom for Hoosiers to help their home communities and neighbors by generating their own energy,” he says.
One of the bill's sponsors, Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington), says when the law went into effect, Indiana killed a fledgling industry and the jobs that came with it. According to the Clean Energy Trust, there are five times as many clean energy jobs in Indiana as in fossil fuels.
“I heard from many installers that their business decreased drastically — they had to change their marketing, they moved to other states,” he says.
Republican Sens. Vaneta Becker (R-Evansville) and Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) are also sponsoring the legislation. Several organizations support the bill as well, including the Citizens Action Coalition, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance, Sierra Club, Columbus Community Solar Initiative, Solar United Neighbors, and Solarize Indiana.
Ray Wilson serves on the board of Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light. It helps churches in the state get solar panels, which he says helps them save on energy costs.
"We need to do something about global warming and the sooner and the faster we can get it done, the better,” he says.
Right now, the power to bring back those higher net metering rates is in the hands of the Senate utilities committee — and its chair, Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis). He authored the original law to phase down net metering and will decide if the bill will get a hearing.
Merritt said in a statement Monday he would not hear the new bill, "as the bill would dismantle Senate Enrolled Act 309, which became law in 2017."
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.