Two Sides of Solar Coin

In the April 25 edition, the South Bend Tribune published my opinion about the negative impact of proposed legislation SB309. See also my related blog posts Sun About to Set on Solar Energy and Solar Power Grab.

The day prior I received a letter from Senator Joe Zakas in reply to my earlier request for an explanation of his vote in favor of SB309. I had written, "I am trying to understand your vote on SB309. Can you please clarify--as in quantify and cite the source--the amount of the purported subsidy that we who do not own solar panels are giving to those individuals who do have solar panels? "

Since then, Governor Holcomb signed the bill into law.

Chuck Bueter:

I don’t own a solar panel yet, but I’d like to some day, and I appreciate those who already do. In his April 14 letter “Solar Power”, Mark Maassel touts the grandfathered benefits of legislation (SB309) for existing solar panels. He dodges the fact that the bill decimates the incentive for individual investment in solar energy in the future. Yes, “industries will have new options to generate their own power” because the bill squeezes out rooftop solar by individuals, schools, churches, and businesses that would invest in Indiana. All public hearings have been dominated by opponents to this legislation. Advocates of SB309 like Maassel, a lobbyist for the carbon-intensive electric companies, have convinced elected officials to curtail the rapidly growing solar energy jobs in Indiana, though much evidence suggests solar energy is an overall benefit to the community. Whil e many states are embracing renewable energy for obvious reasons, if Governor Holcomb signs SB309 you can kiss the benefits of solar investment in Indiana good-bye. -Chuck Bueter

Senator Joe Zakas:

Thank you for your email as to SB 309, Chuck. First, it should be noted that there are a number of ways or methods that can be used to provide incentives for solar power. If those who have solar panels receive the retail rate for the sale of power beyond household usage, they are receiving an amount that includes expenses they are not incurring, e.g. transmission lines and other equipment, personnel costs, etc. The bulk of such "service charges" is folded into the retail rates utilities charge. The 1% cap was established in recognition that a large portion of the costs included in retail rates would be spread to other rate payers, and thus some limitation was needed. The 1% cap was increased to 1.5% in SB 309 and eliminated entirely in five years. At the 1% level, however, according to an IM Power official, for IM the subsidy would be just over $1.5 million annually over a 25 year period. Many lawmakers saw this cost shifting as something that could impact lower income Hoosiers the most, as well as those on fixed incomes. I'm sure the issue will be looked at in the future, and perhaps other incentives could be developed. Thanks again for expressing your concerns. Joe

Thank you, Senator Zakas, for the courtesy of the clarification on your vote.

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