Protect the Free Market Solar Industry in Indiana

You have the right to harness the sunshine on your property! Solar_-_installing_a_solar_array

Generating your own solar power is an important part of building a more sustainable community for a variety of reasons including energy freedom, energy choice, and energy independence.   Homeowners, businesses, schools, congregations, and governments have a right to harvest free, clean energy from the sunshine on their property.  Rooftop solar prices are more affordable every day making ownership more viable, and giving Hoosiers a free market choice for their electricity. However, an important part of the economics of rooftop solar is Net Metering.  This is a policy that helps to ensure solar owners are compensated fairly for the power and benefits they provide to the grid.

In 2011, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), under the Daniels' administration, updated and expanded the Net Metering rule to include all customer classes and systems up to 1 megawatt.  This expansion to the rule moved Indiana from a "D" to a "B" rating for Best Practices in Net Metering Policies.  Indiana's Net Metering policy is working well.  In fact, the rooftop solar at the Cool Creek Nature Center is a perfect example of a rooftop solar project that is financially viable because of the current Net Metering policy.  Indiana should conitnue to explore best practices in net metering to aim for an "A" rating.

In 2015, the utility lobby introduced HB 1320 that would have killed net metering. Click here to read more about HB 1320.

 

How does Net Metering work? Solar_meter_running_backward_at_Cool_Creek_Nature_Center2

When solar panels are producing more electricity than is needed at the time, the excess electricity is delivered to the local distribution grid and the electric meter runs backwards.  The solar customer pays the net difference between the electricity that was used and the electricity that was delivered back to the local grid. With the current Net Metering policy, solar owners are effectively credited at retail rates and compensated fairly for the power and benefits they provide to the grid. The excess solar electricity delivered to the local distribution grid is then used by the neighbor.  The electric utitlity then sells this excess solar electricity to the neighbor at the full retail price.

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Rooftop Solar Provides More Benefits than Costs

Many studies have looked at the costs and benefits of solar power and  found more benefits than costs to the grid, and that solar owners, by investing in their own solar panels, are actually paying more than their fair share to support the grid.  These studies found that their solar panels are benefitting the grid by producing power at the most expensive time of day, during periods of peak demand, and delivering it to their neighbors.  Also, because solar power is generated and consumed locally, solar owners reduce the load on transmission and distribution lines, which reduces the cost of the grid.  In addition, their solar panels offset the extra amount of electricity that the Utility would have had to produce at a remote, centralized power plant due to electricity losses during transmission over power lines.

The Brookings Institute analyzed several studies conducted by various groups and concluded the following

"So what does the accumulating national literature on costs and benefits of net metering say?  Increasingly it concludes— whether conducted by PUCs, national labs, or academics — that the economic benefits of net metering actually outweigh the costs and impose no significant cost increase for non-solar customers.  Far from a net cost, net metering is in most cases a net benefit—for the utility and for non-solar rate-payers…..In short, while the conclusions vary, a significant body of cost-benefit research conducted by PUCs, consultants, and research organizations provides substantial evidence that net metering is more often than not a net benefit to the grid and all ratepayers."

Here are other analysis of multiple studies: 

 

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The Potential for Solar in Indiana is Huge

Indiana has more solar resources than Germany, which has over 36,000 megawatts of installed solar PV, ahead of China and the United States, and set a record in meeting 74% of its single-day electricity demand last year.  Yet, Indiana has less than 0.3% of installed solar capacity compared to Germany.  Clearly, there's a huge potential for growth in the solar sector.

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The free market solar economy is growing in Indiana Solar_is_Growing_IURC

The number of solar installations in Indiana has grown in recent years.  According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Indiana's solar output increased 7-fold from less than 500 kilowatts in 2010 to more than 3,500 in 2012. As of June 2014, according to the Indiana Office of Energy Development, Indiana has 93 MW (93,000 kilowatts) of solar PV installed.   In the U.S., there are now more than half a million solar rooftops on homes and businesses, according to GreenTechMedia.   The factors driving the rapid growth in solar include a drop in the cost of solar equipment, technology improvements as well as favorable federal, state and utility policies according to Purdue's 2014 Indiana Renewable Energy Study.

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. Solar_is_more_affordable

This growth has fostered economic development and jobs.  According to GreenTechMedia, more than $15 billion was invested in American solar projects in 2014, and the average cost of home solar project has dropped 60% since 2008.   Hoosier jobs in the solar industry grew 178 percent in 2013, according to the Solar Foundation. In 2014, solar jobs in the US increased by 30,000; 20 times faster than the national average, according to The Alliance for Solar Choice.  As pricing continues to drop, Indiana is on the verge of a booming solar economy.

Why China is Dominating the Solar Industry, Scientific American, December 2016

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Legislation intended to block the free market solar industry netmeteringmap2014

The growth in distributed generation is competition for the Utilities.

As introduced during the 2015 Legislative Session, House Bill 1320 was designed to squelch the free market solar industry by making rooftop solar prohibitively expensive for Hoosiers. The Utilities want to kill free market competition and grab the solar market for its own electric monopoly. There are Net Metering polices in 44 states.  This bill would have killed net metering and set Indiana back compared to the rest of the country.  It would have put a growing number of solar installers out of business, killing jobs, and resulting in higher solar prices for Hoosiers.  It would have killed energy choice, energy freedom and energy independence for Hoosiers.

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Legislators should protect the free market solar industry in Indiana and vote NO on bills aimed at killing the solar industry.

Through legislation, electric utilities are seeking to Buttons_Take_Action_orange

  • pay less for  rooftop solar power, less than the value of distributed generation
  • add fixed charges
  • change the interconnection rules

But the Utilities have not shown any evidence to justify this.  It's not fair to pass legislation that is so disruptive to a growing free market industry with no evidence that it's needed or justified. The IURC needs to conduct an independent and impartial study of the costs and benefits of rooftop solar to determine its true value. The study should also quantify the real fixed costs for generation, transmission and distribution.  According to an Arizona study, the true market value meets or exceeds the retail rate from benefits that come from avoiding "expensive and polluting conventional power and power plants; reduced investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure; reduced electricity lost during transportation over power lines ... and savings on the cost of meeting renewable energy requirements."

 

Here are some quotes from Tea Party conservative Debbie Dooley:

“If you are protecting monopolies, you are violating free market principles. In Indiana, elected officials who are trying to take away incentives for solar apparently don’t mind giving incentives to big corporations. They just don’t want individuals to have them.”

“Choice is free market and a lot of Republicans support the free market except when it comes to government-created utility monopolies that make a guaranteed profit off of building new power plants.”

“For years, conservatives have been brainwashed into believing solar is bad. In the states where I am active, we don’t hesitate to call out those politicians and now a different message is being delivered. I look forward to coming to Indiana and delivering this message.”

“At some point, we are going to have to look at the structure of the monopoly utilities.”

Check out this audio  -  GreenTechMedia Interview with Debbie Dooley Green Tea Coalition 13 min

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Additional Resources
Economic Trade-Offs Of Owning vs. Leasing Solar, 1/29/15

Report shows Solar is Cheaper than the Grid in 42 of the 50 largest US Cities.

The Benefits and Costs of Solar Distributed Generation for Arizona Public Service

8 Solar Trends to Follow in 2015

Arizona's New Fee Puts a Dent in Rooftop Solar Economics.

APS, solar industry at odds on value of power from rooftop units.

Distributed Solar Energy Provides $34 Million in Benefits to Arizona Ratepayers.

Can S.C.'s groundbreaking net metering policy spread in the Southeast?

Tea Partyers in Florida help Launch Ballot Initiative for Third-Party-Owned Solar.

Florida Ballot Drive seeks to boost Solar Energy in Sunshine State.