Energy Efficiency

WSIU Radio: Ameren Illinois Announces Money-Saving Program For Customers

May 17, 2018
Ameren Illinois Announces Money-Saving Program For Customers
By Kevin Boucher

A major power supplier is working to save customers 10 to 15 percent on their electric bill.  Ameren Illinois held a news conference on Thursday, May 17th, 2018 in Marion to unveil a new initiative designed to put 300–thousand new smart thermostats in Illinois homes over the next decade.  According to the press release, current Ameren Illinois customers can buy a qualified smart thermostat and then go online to apply for a 100 dollar rebate. Ameren’s John Carol says the new devices can easily replace an existing thermostat.  He adds these new smart thermostats work by recording user settings and using that information to heat and cool the home when the home is not occupied.

Kelly Hendrickson, Communications Executive with Ameren, has been using one for several months and says it adds convenience to people with busy schedules.  She says she can be at a little league baseball game  and use her smartphone app to turn the air down so when the family returns home  the house will be comfortable.

Rob Kelter, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center says the new thermostats will help consumers to stop cooling and heating empty homes.

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Press Release: ELPC Collaborates with Ameren Illinois on Commitment to put 300,000 Smart Thermostats in Customer Homes & Businesses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ameren Illinois Announces Commitment to put 300,000 Smart Thermostats in Customer Homes and Businesses

Collaboration with leading brands, environmental advocates  Rebates and incentives provided through Ameren Illinois energy efficiency programs 

East St. Louis, IL (May 16, 2018) – Building on its commitment to help customers become more energy efficient, Ameren Illinois announced an initiative to put 300,000 smart thermostats in customer homes and businesses. Ameren Illinois Chairman and President Richard J. Mark was joined by Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) Chairman Brien Sheahan, as well as representatives from the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and leading manufacturers ecobee and Nest in announcing the plan Wednesday afternoon in East St. Louis.

Ameren Illinois customers can purchase a qualified ENERGY STAR® smart thermostat and apply online to receive a $100 discount in the mail.  An instant smart thermostat rebate and an online marketplace will be available in the next few weeks to make the process even easier for customers to save.  Rebates are being provided to customers through energy efficiency program funding approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission under the landmark Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA).

The initiative also seeks to get smart thermostats into the residences of income-eligible customers. Those qualified can now have one of the devices installed for free as part of the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program.

“When the Future Energy Jobs Act was passed, we made a bold commitment to ensure that benefits of energy efficiency would be available to all of our customers, especially those with limited financial means,” said Mark. “With today’s announcement, we’re living up to that promise. Putting 300,000 smart thermostats in customer homes and businesses is an ambitious goal, but we’re confident that with the collaboration of our partners we can make that vision a reality.”

Easy to install and operate, use of a smart thermostat can save between 10 and 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. The devices enable customers to adjust settings on the go via smartphone apps. Additionally, many smart thermostats models can sense when the homeowner and/or residents are away from home and automatically modify the temperature, further reducing energy usage.

“Smart thermostats will empower Ameren Illinois residential and business customers to better manage their energy usage, and give them more control over their monthly bill,” said ICC Chairman Brien J. Sheahan.  “On behalf of Governor Bruce Rauner and the ICC, we applaud Ameren Illinois for continuing the state’s more than 100-year tradition of leadership on energy issues by embracing new innovation and technology, like smart thermostats, that help our state reach its energy efficiency goals.”

“Smart thermostats will help consumers to stop cooling and heating empty homes,” said Rob Kelter, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “With this initiative, Ameren Illinois is stepping up to help its customers save money and reduce pollution at the same time.”

The initiative is bolstered by the active involvement from leading smart thermostat brands, including Nest and ecobee.  Since 2011, Nest thermostats around the world have helped customers save more than 22 billion kilowatt-hours of energy and their work with Ameren is in service of this mission to bring energy efficiency to more homes across the U.S.

ecobee introduced the world’s first smart wi-fi thermostat to help homeowners save money, conserve energy and live more comfortably.  “We applaud the commitment that Ameren Illinois is making here today and are thrilled to offer the Ameren Illinois customers a better way to save on their energy bill and reduce their carbon footprint,” said Stuart Lombard, president and CEO of ecobee.

Ameren Illinois’ energy efficiency program is recognized as one of the best in the country – rated #12 by ACEEE, an independent energy efficiency organization. Over the past nine years, Ameren Illinois has helped its customers reduce their energy usage by nearly 12 million megawatt-hours, saving them approximately $781 million. This improved energy efficiency has enabled Ameren Illinois customers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8.3 million metric tons – the equivalent of taking nearly 1.8 million cars off the road for a year.

To learn more about the program or apply for smart thermostat rebates, please visit www.AmerenIllinoisSavings.com. Income-eligible customers can also find the home energy audit application on that website or simply call 866.838.6918.

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Energy News Network: Iowa Governor Signs Bill Critics Say Will ‘Eviscerate’ Efficiency Programs

May 7, 2018
Iowa Governor Signs Bill Critics Say Will ‘Eviscerate’ Efficiency Programs
By Karen Uhlenhuth

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill Friday that critics say could largely evaporate utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs in the state.

The new law caps spending on the programs at levels substantially less than what utilities now spend. It also allows certain customers to stop paying fees that support the programs, and it omits rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, which serve about one-third of Iowa customers, from having to offer any programs.

The bill also takes a swipe at solar installations by allowing municipal utilities to discriminate against customers with their own generation. Iowa’s 136 municipal utilities serve about 216,000 customers, or 13.5 percent of all electricity customers in the state.

Kerri Johannsen, who lobbied against the bill on behalf of the Iowa Environmental Council, wrote in a statement that “utilities will sell more power and Iowans will pay more out of their paycheck for energy. Utilities are the only winner here — businesses and citizens across Iowa will pay the price of this action.”

Josh Mandelbaum, a lawyer with the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said, “For energy efficiency policy in Iowa, for all practical purposes, we’re at the point where we will need to start over. The policy has been eviscerated enough that we just have poor to non-existent energy-efficiency policy at this point.”

Mandelbaum and Johannsen said the legislation runs counter to the Iowa Energy Plan, a policy document crafted in a process lead by Gov. Reynolds, who was then Iowa’s lieutenant governor. The plan, published in late 2016, endorsed, among other strategies, state policies that encourage greater energy efficiency.

The state’s two major investor-owned utilities could not be reached over the weekend, but the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives released a statement Friday pronouncing the bill good for rural electric customers.

“Iowa’s electric cooperatives will continue to offer energy efficiency programs to member-owners,” said Steve Seidl, board president of the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperative. “We will further our commitment to environmental stewardship and renewable energy. The newly signed legislation will ensure that our energy efficiency programs are cost-effective — meaning that co-op member-owners aren’t footing the bill for a program that isn’t financially responsible.”

Most states require utilities to spend money subsidizing efficient products and technologies such as LED lighting and high-efficiency appliances. The programs help lower bills for participants as well as all utility customers by delaying the need for more expensive infrastructure projects.

The Iowa bill would cap spending on energy efficiency at 2 percent of annual sales for electricity utilities and 1.5 percent of sales of natural gas utilities. It also would limit expenditures on demand response programs at 2 percent of sales.

Johannsen estimates that utility spending on reducing electricity use will fall by between 50 and 70 percent. The reduction in natural gas efficiency programs, at close to 90 percent, “is going to be devastating,” she predicted.

Mandelbaum said that in light of the law’s passage, the state’s two major investor-owned utilities, MidAmerican Energy and Interstate Power & Light, indicated they will revise the five-year energy-efficiency plans they filed with the Iowa Utilities Board earlier this year.

Interstate’s plan ranked slightly above 1 on the Ratepayer Impact Test, meaning opt-out is not an option. MidAmerican’s plan scores below 1, meaning opt-out is available at present.

“MidAmerican said they would file something where opt-out would not end up happening,” Mandelbaum said. But the only way, under the current law, for MidAmerican to hike its score is to cut lower-scoring parts of the energy-efficiency program, he said.

“So it’s a lose-lose. You either allow opt-out, and that cuts funding for programs that do exist, or you cut programs so there is no opt-out. Either way, it’s bad for the programs.”

Mandelbaum said clean-energy supporters will express their views on the two utilities’ energy-efficiency plans as they move through the state regulatory process. And more broadly, they will “think about what options we may have going forward.”

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Update: Second Bill Emerges in Iowa to Cut Energy Efficiency Programs

 

Update: Second Bill Emerges in Iowa to Cut Energy Efficiency Programs

By Karen Uhlenhuth

Another threat to energy conservation programs has emerged in the Iowa Legislature.

One week after a bill to repeal utilities’ energy efficiency requirements surfaced in the state Senate, a broad public utility reform bill is set to reach a subcommittee Thursday.

The study bill (SSB3093) would let large industrial customers opt out of efficiency programs, allow utilities to apply a different cost-effectiveness formula, and also require each initiative be cost-effective on its own instead of evaluating the portfolio as a whole. It would also cap efficiency spending at 2 percent of a utilities’ revenue.

“It’s a significant scaling back of energy efficiency, and a step away from our leadership on energy efficiency,” Environmental Law & Policy Center attorney Josh Mandelbaum said.

The bill, set to be discussed in a Commerce subcommittee meeting Thursday, was introduced by State Sen. Jake Chapman with support from Interstate Power & Light, one of the state’s largest investor-owned utilities.

Chapman did not respond to an interview request.

Interstate Power spokesman Justin Foss responded to questions about the bill with a brief statement:

“Iowa has been a pioneer in renewable energy and energy policy, providing economic growth for the state. To maintain this leadership position, Iowa needs updated policies to continue to promote the integration of new energy technologies, reduce regulatory inefficiencies, help customers save money, and provide even more opportunities for business growth and job creation.”

Other supporters include Black Hills Energy, a smaller investor-owned utility, the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities, and the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives. MidAmerican Energy is seeking similar changes in its next five-year energy efficiency plan, now under consideration by the Iowa Utilities Board.

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Press Release: Smart Thermostat program Features Record Rebate to Help Consumers Cut Cooling Costs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 25, 2017

Contact: David Jakubiak

CONSUMER ALERT: YOU COULD BE WASTING MONEY COOLING AN EMPTY HOME
SMART THERMOSTAT PROGRAM FEATURES RECORD REBATE TO HELP CONSUMERS CUT COOLING COSTS BY 10-20%

CHICAGO (July 25, 2017) – Amid the hottest time of the year, consumer advocates joined with Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) and the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) Tuesday to make Chicago-area consumers aware that cooling an empty home, while they are away at work or on vacation, can cause summer energy bills to soar.

Smart thermostats provide the easy solution to high seasonal bills, and this summer, northern Illinois consumers can take advantage of unprecedented rebates as part of one of the largest thermostat rebate programs in the country.

The “One Million Smart Thermostats” initiative, launched in October 2015, is a partnership between the utilities and the advocacy groups Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and Citizens Utility Board (CUB). Under this initiative, smart thermostats are eligible for up to $150 in rebates offered by ComEd and other Illinois gas utilities for customers with WiFi, central air and a furnace. The rebates can help cut the cost of some of these smart devices by more than 50 percent and give more control to northern Illinois consumers to save money by reducing wasteful energy use.

The goal of the program this year is to double the adoption to 100,000 smart thermostats in households across Illinois. To help create awareness and boost adoption, ComEd has launched an educational campaign and a new instant discount option for customers.

“ComEd’s smart thermostat rebate initiative is one of the largest and most active programs in the nation, reducing up-front costs for our customers on a product that gives them more control and even greater savings over time.  With just a few taps on a smart thermostat app, customers can manage their household temperature while away from home avoiding unnecessary energy use and costs,” said ComEd President & CEO Anne Pramaggiore.

Smart thermostats are WiFi-enabled devices that allow residents to easily control the heating and air conditioning settings through their smartphones, tablets, and computers.  The technology is smart because it learns or adapts to user behavior over time and can generate energy savings with very little effort. Residents remain comfortable when home and save money on heating and cooling energy costs while away at work or on vacation.

“Smart thermostats do the work for you – they adjust the temperature automatically when you’re not home,” said Rob Kelter, senior attorney for ELPC. “We want even more customers to take advantage of the great technological innovation of smart thermostats and keep more money in their pockets.”

CUB Executive Director David Kolata said smart thermostats can help consumers cut their cooling costs by an estimated 10 to 20 percent. “Smart thermostats prove just how easy and effective energy efficiency can be,” Kolata said. “The savings from these easy-to-use devices could be substantial—potentially cutting northern Illinois electric bills by millions of dollars. We urge ComEd customers to take advantage of the unprecedented discounts – available online and in stores- to buy a smart thermostat this summer.”

“The best way for consumers to control their electric bills, and help the environment, is to reduce consumption,” said Brien J. Sheahan, Chairman of the ICC. “Smart thermostats give consumers greater control of, and visibility into, their energy use which promotes conservation and helps save money.”

To make it easier for customers to redeem rebates, ComEd launched a new website, ComEdMarketplace.com, where customers can shop for smart thermostats and other top-rated energy products and take advantage of online instant rebates that reduce purchase costs.

ComEd officials said the smart thermostat program is part of one of the nation’s best-performing energy efficiency programs, saving consumers some $2.5 billion. The ComEd Energy Efficiency Program is about to get even better, thanks to the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), a bipartisan bill that passed the Illinois General Assembly late in 2016 and was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

In June, ComEd filed with the ICC a new Energy Efficiency Program, under FEJA. The law will double customer savings and reduce electricity use in Illinois by 21 percent by 2030.

 

 

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About ComEd

Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the nation’s leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 10 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 3.9 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

About ELPC

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization. We develop and lead successful strategic advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural resources. We are public interest environmental entrepreneurs who engage in creative business deal making with diverse interests to put into practice our belief that environmental progress and economic development can be achieved together. 

About Citizen’s Utility Board

Created by the Illinois Legislature, CUB opened its doors in 1984 to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. Since then, the nonprofit utility watchdog group has saved consumers more than $20 billion by helping to block rate hikes and secure refunds. For more details, call CUB’s Consumer Hotline, 1-800-669-5556, or visit CUB’s award-winning website, www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org

About ecobee

ecobee Inc. introduced the world’s first smart wi-fi smart thermostat to help millions of customers save money, conserve energy and seamlessly bring home automation into their lives. The company’s first flagship consumer device – ecobee3 – introduced pioneering room sensor technology to deliver comfort in the rooms that matter most, leading it to become a top-selling smart thermostat on the market and achieve a No. 1 ranking on Navigant’s Smart Thermostat Leaderboard. Learn more about ecobee and its smart home technologies at www.ecobee.com.

About Nest

Nest’s mission is to create a home that’s thoughtful – one that takes care of the people inside it and the world around it. The company focuses on simple, beautiful and delightful hardware, software and services. The Nest Learning Thermostat™ and Nest Energy Services keep you comfortable and address home energy consumption. The Nest Protect™ smoke and carbon monoxide alarm helps keep you safe and Nest Safety Rewards lets you save money through participating home insurance providers, while Nest Cam™ keeps an eye on what matters most inside and outside your home. For more information, visit www.nest.com.

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Lake Erie to Ohio EPA: Please, Call Me Impaired

 

 

Lake Erie to Ohio EPA: Please, Call Me Impaired

By Peter Krause

 

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved a list of impaired waters in Ohio, but to the disappointment of environmentalists, it doesn’t include the open waters of Lake Erie.

Designating the lake as “impaired” is critical to stemming the encroachment of harmful algal blooms, said Frank Szollosi. The category would require the state of Ohio to work with the U.S. EPA to develop a concrete plan to remediate the problem.

But the Ohio EPA did not include Erie’s open waters on a list of impaired waterways when it submitted it to the U.S. EPA last fall. The U.S. EPA approved the list May 18.

What frustrates Ohio environmentalists further is that Michigan included western Lake Erie on its list of impaired waters. That was approved by the U.S. EPA.

“This is not sensible,” U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur said in a statement Tuesday. Kaptur, a Democrat, represents a swath of shoreline from Toledo to Cleveland. “There is no imaginary line in the middle of Lake Erie where one side of the lake faces challenges that don’t impact the other side… Eleven million people depend on Lake Erie for their drinking water and this contradictory action fails to address the real danger they face from the presence of toxic algal blooms.”

A spokesperson for the Ohio EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The federal Clean Water Act sets a standards for impaired waters, Szollosi said. In the case of algae blooms and nutrient loading, the U.S. EPA would require that the sources and amounts of nutrients be identified and limits set.

“We want a legally enforceable measuring stick for progress,” he said.

Without the official limits, Szollosi said voluntary incentives simply won’t work.

Incentives were applied to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay for 20 years, he said, but not until pollution standards were put in place did any meaningful reduction of nutrients occur.

In Lake Erie, the major problem is farm fertilizers running off into the lake, primarily by way of the Maumee River in Toledo. Three years ago, 400,000 Toledo area residents were temporarily without drinking water after harmful toxins from algal blooms fouled the water supply.

Algae that spreads into the central basin of the lake can also create a massive dead zone.

The phosphorus in the fertilizer is the main problem, according to Jeff Reutter, former director of the Ohio State University’s Sea Grant College Program and Stone Lab, who discussed the issue with cleveland.com this month during a water summit in Cleveland sponsored by the Cleveland Water Alliance.

Other stewards of Lake Erie have are as indignant as Szollosi over Lake Erie being excluded from the list of impaired waters.

“The waters of the Great Lakes are the most critical asset we have,” said Dan Eichinger, executive director of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, in a prepared statement. “We are disappointed in the EPA decision to all Ohio to keep the status quo. Michigan can’t address Lake Erie’s issues alone. There must be a collective action and commitment to solve it.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center also weighed in. “By passing the buck back and forth, EPA and Ohio EPA are ducking the real issue that Ohio’s reliance on unenforceable, voluntary measures will not get the job done in addressing phosphorus pollution in Lake Erie,” reads a written statement from center staff attorney Madeline Fleisher.

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Press Release: Innovative Clean Energy Financing Bill Heads for IL Governor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2017

Contact: David Jakubiak

Illinois Closer to Innovative Clean Energy Financing Opportunity
General Assembly Sends PACE Financing Bill to Governor Rauner

SPRINGFIELD, IL – An innovative financing opportunity offered to businesses and property owners in 19 states may finally come to Illinois through legislation headed to Governor Rauner’s desk, after being passed by the State Senate 53-0 on Wednesday.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing allows counties or municipal governments to establish programs that provide financing for the upfront costs of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The costs are then repaid through an assessment on the property tax bill for the property where the improvement has been made.

In Illinois PACE would function as a so-called “double opt-in” program. First a municipality or county would need to create a local PACE program; then property owners would need to opt-in to the programs.

“Illinois is deploying an innovative clean energy financing opportunity for commercial, industrial and multifamily building owners that will save consumers’ money, decrease energy use and reduce pollution,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

The PACE measure enjoyed broad bipartisan support. On April 28th, PACE passed in the Illinois House where it was championed by Representative Lou Lang. Senator Karen McConnaughay led the effort to pass HB 2831 in the Illinois Senate. If signed by Governor Rauner, the bill will make Illinois the 20th state to offer PACE financing. Nationwide PACE financing has led to more than $3 billion in clean energy investments.

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ELPC’s Rob Kelter Critical Of Renewed Attacks On Clean Energy In Ohio

GOP State Legislators Trying Again to Weaken Renewable-Energy Standards
March 7, 2017
By Dan Gearino

Republican state legislators are trying again to weaken clean-energy standards, hoping to pass a measure similar to one that Gov. John Kasich vetoed in December.

The 73-page bill would change state rules that require electricity utilities to invest in renewable energy and help customers to reduce energy use.

House Bill 114, introduced Tuesday, has more than 50 co-sponsors, including all of the Republican leadership, in a chamber with 99 members.

“We just wanted to have a strong showing of support,” said Rep. Louis Blessing, R-Cincinnati, the lead sponsor.

Meanwhile, environmentalists, clean-energy businesses and others say that they are ready to fight this proposal just as they did previous ones.

The question for legislators is whether there is enough support to override another veto. Republicans added to their House and Senate majorities in the November election, but it is not clear whether leaders can win the votes of two-thirds of each chamber, the minimum needed to override a veto by Kasich, a fellow Republican.

“I know a lot of people will interpret (the bill) as being hostile to the governor … but that’s not the intent,” Blessing said.

Emmalee Kalmbach, a Kasich spokeswoman, had this statement:

“The governor has been clear regarding the need to work with the General Assembly to craft a bill that supports a diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources while preserving the gains we have made in the state’s economy,” she said.

Among the proposed changes in the bill:

  • Utilities would no longer face penalties for not meeting annual benchmarks for purchases of renewable energy. Instead, the companies would have optional goals.
  • The rules for energy savings would go through several changes, reducing the amount required while also expanding the definition of what types of savings can be counted.
  • Many businesses would be able to opt out of electricity-bill charges that pay for utilities’ clean-energy programs.

Blessing said utilities have indicated to him that they would continue clean-energy programs even without mandates and would like the flexibility of no longer facing penalties for not meeting the standards.

“The mandates at this point are just unnecessary,” he said.

Indeed, Columbus-based American Electric Power has a plan to dramatically expand its spending on wind and solar power.

“We are still reviewing the legislation, but we think there needs to be a broader policy discussion about Ohio’s energy future,” said Scott Blake, an AEP spokesman. “We’ve made significant investments to comply with the renewable and energy efficiency standards that are in place and have run very successful programs for our customers.”

Opponents of the bill say there is no good reason to tinker with a law that has been good for the state.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” said Rob Kelter, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Ohio’s energy policy is in a good place right now, and we should leave it alone.”

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EnergyWire: ELPC’s Brad Klein Says Net-Metering Does Not Raise Rates Paid by Non-Solar Customers

EnergyWireNet-Metering Proposal Raises Subsidy Questions in Ind.
February 10, 2017
By Jeffrey Tomich

Indiana joined the cavalcade of states debating the factious topic of net metering as the utility industry squared off with solar advocates and other supporters over how to fairly compensate consumers who generate their own electricity.

A hearing before the Senate Utilities Committee included familiar arguments about jobs, the environment and whether the state’s current policy, initially adopted in 2005, is forcing non-solar customers to subsidize their neighbors with solar panels.

From Nevada to Arizona and beyond, legislatures and utility commissions have debated proposals to eliminate or weaken net-metering policies — changes pushed by utilities who say increasing solar penetration hurts their ability to recover costs of maintaining the grid.

Currently, Indiana net metering customers are credited for the excess power they put on the grid at the retail electricity rate. On average, the retail rate in Indiana is about 11 cents per kilowatt-hour.

State Sen. Brandt Hershman (R) filed S.B. 309 last month. It addresses more than rooftop solar. But the debate over net metering consumed most of yesterday’s five-hour hearing. In the end, the committee adjourned without taking a vote.

As filed, S.B. 309 would end net metering in Indiana in 2027 and replace it with a “buy-all, sell-all” model under which customer-generators would sell their electric output to utilities at the wholesale rate and purchase energy for their home or business at the retail rate.

The bill prompted an immediate backlash, and Hershman offered an amendment yesterday that replaced the “buy-all, sell-all” proposal with a system to credit customer-generators at a rate equal to the utility’s average wholesale energy price, plus a 25 percent premium. Based on testimony from the Indiana Energy Association (IEA), the lobbying group for investor-owned utilities, that wholesale rate is presently about 3 cents per kWh.

The amendment would end net metering in 2022 — five years sooner than the initial bill. Customers who participate in net-metering tariffs when the programs end would be grandfathered for a decade.

“We want to encourage a technology to a degree,” Hershman said. “But at such point as that technology’s cost is dropping dramatically and that policy stays static, what you’re doing is creating an increasing subsidy.

“It’s a heck of a deal if you can get it,” he added. “But the question is, is that good public policy?”

Subsidy Questions

At the heart of the debate was to what extent, if any, net metering creates subsidies among Indiana utility customers.

Bill supporters including the IEA, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity told the committee there is no doubt that solar-owning customers in Indiana are being subsidized by customers without rooftop solar systems.

“While we’re growing an industry, while we’re developing an industry, that kind of solar support with a subsidy is not a bad idea,” said Mark Maassel, IEA’s executive director. “But at some point, we do need to transition away from asking someone to pay for someone else’s facilities.”

Even Hershman’s amendment that would compensate customer generators at 25 percent above the wholesale energy price wouldn’t change that, he said.

“It does continue a subsidy,” Maassel said. “It’s less than there is today, but it does continue a subsidy.”

Bill supporters, however, had no answer when they were asked to quantify the amount of any subsidy or provide data to back up their claims.

“If the utility believes there is a subsidy, then the burden of proof is theirs,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, an environmental and consumer advocacy group. “They have no burden of proof in this building. We should not blindly accept their false narrative.”

Brad Klein, senior attorney for the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Midwest advocacy group, cited studies from other states and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that showed net metering has little if any impact on the rates paid by non-solar customers.

If anything, he said, the benefits of distributed generation are too often overlooked.

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