February 16, 2017

Reworked Net Metering Bill Passes Senate Committee

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Solar panels behind Sheridan Elementary School. Sheridan Community Schools is one of the first completely solar powered districts in the state. - Peter Balonon-Rosen/IPB

Solar panels behind Sheridan Elementary School. Sheridan Community Schools is one of the first completely solar powered districts in the state.

Peter Balonon-Rosen/IPB

The Senate Utilities committee passed a bill that would overhaul an alternative energy practice known as “net metering” by a vote of 8-2 on Thursday.

Net metering currently allows people, businesses and schools with solar panels, or other alternate energy generation sources, to sell excess energy back to utilities at the retail rate. Originally, the bill, authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Buck Creek), would’ve allowed utilities to reimburse those people at the lower, wholesale rate.

Lawmakers amended the bill after hearing testimony largely against it for more than five hours last week. The new version says Hoosiers who currently have solar panels will be paid the full retail rate for 30 years. And Hoosiers who purchase solar panels within the next five years will receive retail rates for excess energy until 2032.

Hershman says he’s not against net metering but, instead, wants to ensure people can continue taking advantage of it.

“Right now, you get a subsidy of over 300 percent,” Hershman says. “That’s unsustainable.”

The amended version of the bill would reduce that subsidy to the wholesale rate plus 25 percent, which at the current rate, adds less than one cent per watt.

Many alternative energy advocates opposed the bill. Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, notes that the solar industry is growing, with 200,000 related jobs in the state.

“And our view is SB 309, even as amended, deters entrepreneurial investment,” Kharbanda says.

The bill now needs to be voted on by the full Senate to advance.

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