-- The third-ranking Republican in the Indiana Senate wrongly said that a
financial incentive for installing solar panels would likely disappear
unless lawmakers supported his bill to revamp the benefit.
At least one
lawmaker said that inaccurate testimony by Sen. Brandt Hershman during a
recent Statehouse hearing led him to back the proposal. The bill would
sharply curtail the benefit that homeowners, churches, businesses and
schools now reap by harnessing the sun’s energy.
Lafayette, painted a dire picture when he promoted the bill. He inaccurately
stated that without changes included in his measure, everyone who currently
benefits from a state “net metering” program would be kicked off once a cap
grandfathering. No guarantee. Nothing,” he said during a Feb. 16 hearing.
“People ask for a reason for the bill -- this is part of it.”
If that were true,
roughly 1,000 utility customers in Indiana who get credit on their bill for
feeding -- or “net metering” -- surplus power back into the grid would face
the possibility of a major financial loss on their investment in alternative
The measure, which
is expected to come up for a vote before the full Senate this week, was
ultimately approved by the committee on an 8-2 vote.
down from his comments in a statement Friday, though he insisted that his
testimony was “accurate” and declared it “a non-issue.”
“This is a
manufactured controversy from a liberal special interest group seeking to
perpetuate a program that, as it grows, will hurt consumers while
financially benefiting the group’s clients,” Hershman said.
currently mandates that solar panel owners are allowed to feed excess energy
they generate back into the power grid, which they must be compensated for.
companies say the current rate of compensation offered through net metering
is too generous, and Hershman hopes to reduce that rate through his bill.
Solar energy proponents say the current rate is needed in order to break
even during the useful life of a solar panel system.
State law requires
utilities to allow new customers to join net metering programs until about 1
percent of the utility’s energy comes from an alternative energy source,
such as solar.
Once the cap is
met, utilities are still required to offer the benefit to existing
participants, though they may turn away additional people who want to net
meter, according to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
But that’s not what
Hershman told fellow lawmakers. And opponents suggest that his false
statements were intended to drum up support for his bill.
Distributive Energy Alliance, an alternative energy advocacy group, said in
a letter to lawmakers that “misstatements” by Hershman about Indiana’s net
metering rules “simply are not true” and were “so egregious we think they
may have unfairly influenced (the) committee vote.”
On Friday, Hershman
said he wanted to clarify his comments, and he acknowledged that “existing
customers would be grandfathered” under the current rule.
Lonnie Randolph, of East Chicago, said he initially planned to vote against
the bill, but was persuaded during the hearing.
“Knowing what I
know now, I would not vote for the bill,” said Randolph.
Growth in the solar
energy market could eventually eat away at the business of the big utilities
-- in Indiana Duke Energy, Vectren and Indiana Michigan Power -- which have
a powerful voice and support Hershman’s bill to curb the solar power
worries about his proposed decrease in the rate of compensation for solar
panel owners could be rendered moot as the cost and efficiency of solar
The bill, he said,
is an attempt to balance the interests of utilities, while still supporting
alternative energy sources.