Kathleen and I attended the IURC field hearing on net-metering last Monday evening at the County-City building. Here is my summary.

1. The IURC has failed to change their rules enacted in 2005. The 2005 rules (regulations) were obviously (to me) written by the power industry to limit and control net-metering in Indiana.

2. According to the comments given to the IURC commissioners, it is a no-brainer to change the regulations to provide an economic incentive for individuals, schools, businesses and municipalities to begin net-metering. Many states have improved their economies by allowing for sensible net-metering. The comments were from engineers, electricians, home owners, city officials, state elected officials and people who own and operate businesses providing alternate energy (PV, anaerobic digesters, wind turbine, biomass); these are not wing nuts but practical people. There was even a representative of mall owners/managers asking for net-metering.

3. The state House has passed bipartisan bills since 2005 establishing more reasonable net-metering policies, and they die in the Senate. There is another bi-partisan bill this General Assembly co-sponsored by Ryan Dvorak, state Representative, and supported by John Broden, state Senator. Both spoke at the hearing.

The state Senate is “illiterate about net-metering” according to Rep. Ryan Dvorak. Although Dvorak didn’t say so, I assume key Senate members are deaf to everyone but power industry lobbyists. If the ignorant Senators heard the testimony last night, they would change the legislation immediately based on the evidence. The IURC commissioners after these three field hearings must be very well informed — whether they will change the rules or not is another story.

4. Net-metering is not selling electricity to power companies but earning credit at retail pricing for power generated and used. Surplus energy beyond your own use is not purchased by the power company. There is a power selling framework, but it is not called net-metering. The power selling framework may be FITs (Feed-In Tariffs).


5. The current rules make it financially and politically difficult if not impossible for the City of South Bend to build a hydro-electric plant to generate power for the city’s water treatment plant. Reasonable net-metering regulations would make the hydro-plant a no-brainer. Now, individuals and organizations which generate their own electricity usually don’t net-meter because it is economically impractical to join the grid in Indiana.

Here is how the power industry in Indiana contains net-metering using the IURC rules.

~ No more than a 17kw generator is allowed. According to the IndyStar/Indianapolis Star, the regulatory power generation limit is 10kw/month. A commenter at the South Bend hearing said modern homes use 1000-5000 kw/month.
~ No market area, which for I&M would be southwestern Michigan and northwestern/central Indiana, as a whole can net-meter more than 0.1% of the historical total summer peak power used in that area.
~ No aggregation of meters for the purpose of net-metering.
~ Monthly connection fees, initial installation charges and required equipment costs diminish and lengthen the ROI (return on investment). For instance, power companies frequently require two special meters to measure incoming and outgoing electricity rather than a single meter which is reversible. The single meter is $189 with no special requirements to install. The two-meter installation costs from $1500 to $2500 dollars according to the power company you are dealing with. Both types of meters are manufactured by Seimens.
~ Businesses are excluded from net-metering. Only homes and schools are allowed to net-meter. Power companies can allow businesses to net-meter, but inclusion is solely at the discretion of the power company; otherwise they are excluded.

South Bend’s proposed hydro-electric generator would:

~ generate 250kw and the IURC limit is 10kw;
~ generate 1/3 of the limit for our entire I&M market area;
~ aggregate 9 meters, and the IURC allows just 1 meter;
~ be excluded from net-metering under current rules.

Arguments supporting restrictive rules in Indiana were thoroughly discredited or disproved by testimony at the hearing. I can’t tell you how exciting it was to hear what people and businesses are doing in other states for themselves and their communities and what Indiana citizens and businesses are doing in spite of current regulations, yet I was depressed to think the state Senate and IURC will probably do nothing to encourage net-metering in Indiana.

Here is a informative article from the IndyStar/Indianapolis Star, a fairly conservative news organization.

btw, the audience erupted into applause after my comments to the commissioners. I was stunned but pleased. I believe I said twice during my comments that I represented the SJVGreens so we garnered good PR out of the hearing. There were activists from the central region of Indiana including CAC at the hearing.

Tom Brown
St. Joe Valley Greens