Advocates Against Indiana Move to Curb Solar

On Wednesday, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) gave a ruling that will see customer-owned solar inaccessible for Vectren customers. The move will reduce the credit that future-solar owners, who are served by Vectren, will receive. IURC decision will also change the period for earning credits, meaning that customer-owned solar will be credited at the new lower rate.

The IURC oversees five investor-owned utilities in the state including Vectren Energy, Indiana Michigan Power, Duke Energy, Northern Indiana Public Service Company, and Indianapolis Power and Light.

The INA broad alliance of solar, environmental, and consumer advocates of Indiana have condemned the ruling.  According to the advocates, the decision is a great setback for the customer-owned solar market in Indiana. The coalition of advocates has put a lot in environmental and consumer outcomes in regions like Indiana, the Midwest, and the nation.

The ruling will solidify the monopoly of CenterPoint and this will be a major setback for customer-owned solar in the territory. It will have a negative impact on the consumers in Southwest Indiana.

In 2015, Indiana lawmakers tried to pass a bill that aimed to decrease the payback for net-metered solar. The bill also aimed at allowing state utilities to add new bill charges. However, the bill was pulled down before it could even reach a vote.

The solar industry and advocates are concerned that the ruling favors monopolies and puts unfair burdens on rooftop customers.

According to Indiana Program Director at Solar United Neighbors, Zach Schalk, solar owners are entitled to fair value as compensation for the electricity they generate. Zach said that rooftop solar harvests sunshine to give clean electricity, which benefits all customers.

He went on to say that they are disappointed by the IURC’s ruling to protect the monopoly profits of Vectren at the expense of Hoosier. He believes that the IURC should have stood up for the consumers by supporting rooftop solars.

In response to IURC’s rulings, Kerwin Olson, who is the executive director at Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana this is another scenario of the consumers losing at the IURC and the monopolies winning. Kerwin said that it is shortsighted decisions like the one IURC made that continuously leave Indiana consumers behind and entire Indiana in the dark for ages.

A senior attorney at Environmental Law & Policy Center, Brad Klein made his remarks saying that they are very disappointed that the IURC chose to prioritize the profits of Vectren over the interests of its customers. He went on to say that the decision of the IURC is contrary to Indiana law.

Emphasis: Power’s Regulatory Director, Thomas Brown said that the move is a setback for Indiana and its community. He said that families and businesses in Southern Indiana desire to have clean energy but this is proving difficult because of the IURC decision.

He said that the ruling prevents fair compensation for companies that have invested in local solar. He was also quick to note that Indiana was moving backward as parts of the Midwest invest in clean energy and take steps to modernize electric grid.

Ultimately, there is no denying that curbing customer-owned solar will cripple the solar industry that serves them as well. It limits the customer’s choice when it comes to their source of energy and their ability to be self-sufficient. Solar installers are arguably the fastest-growing jobs in the U.S and a good number of the jobs are in Indiana.

However, with the move to curb solar in Indiana, installers may need to expand their business to other states to be able to survive. Businesses may be forced to move their businesses to other states or lay off employees.