Because under the current system, customers who generate their own power aren’t paying the full cost of the electric grid — a grid they use when their system isn’t operating because the sun isn’t shining. That means the costs of providing reliable electric service to rooftop solar customers are, in fact, paid mostly by all other customers. So customers who likely can’t afford private solar panels, like seniors on fixed incomes or lower-income individuals, pay more on their electric bill to subsidize those with the means to invest in solar options.
As this legislation works its way through the General Assembly, several important changes have been made. Legislators want customers to be able to use the power they generate and sell excess power at a premium. These concerns have been addressed through amendments to the bill.
Senate Bill 309 now provides a generous 30-year grandfathering period for customers with existing systems. During this time solar customers will be credited with retail rates for electricity, just like today’s practice.
Customers without systems still do have an opportunity to install rooftop solar systems at favorable rates. New customers who install rooftop solar in the next five years or before solar power accounts for 1.5 percent of a utility’s peak power are also grandfathered until 2032. That means they will be credited the advantageous retail rate for both the power they use and the excess they put on the grid until 2032.
Even future rooftop solar customers will be credited the full retail rate for power they produce and use. The credit they receive for excess power they put on the grid will be the market price for electricity plus a 25 percent premium.
A utility can petition the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for a change to these credits, but the burden is on the utility to prove that such a change is needed.
The ultimate decision rests with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. Senate Bill 309 strikes an appropriate balance by both promoting solar energy and protecting customers who can’t afford solar panels.
Senate Bill 309 is fair to all customers — those who have their own systems and those who don’t.
Mark Maassel, president, Indiana Energy Association