The roller coaster ride that was this year’s Indiana General Assembly session was gaveled to a close on Wednesday, April 24. While there was much to celebrate over the course of the four-month session, solar supporters were unfortunately left with the all-too familiar feeling of disappointment from the statehouse. Thank you to everyone who joined us in fighting for our solar rights here in Indiana! We can’t wait to keep the momentum going through the end of the year and into next year’s session.
Here’s a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly for solar energy from the 2019 General Assembly session, and a snapshot of what to expect in the future.
Renewable Energy Day – On March 6, dozens of Hoosiers from around the state met with their lawmakers to advocate for better renewable energy policy and rallied at the Indiana Statehouse for the first ever Renewable Energy Day. The event featured impassioned speeches from a bipartisan group of lawmakers and advocates representing a diverse array of interests.
HB 1331 – One of the few policy bright spots from throughout the 2019 General Assembly session was HB 1331, a potentially groundbreaking law that would prevent homeowners’ associations (HOAs) from unreasonably restricting the right of residents to install solar on their own property. Thanks to the actions of hundreds of solar supporters around the state who signed our petition and contacted their legislators about this issue, the bill came closer than ever before to becoming law. It passed both the Indiana House and Senate, giving solar supporters a tantalizing—but tragically fleeting—taste of victory. HB 1331 ultimately died an untimely death when the two chambers were unable to reconcile their different versions of the bill, meaning a final version of the bill was never sent to the governor’s desk to become law.
Renewable energy ban DEFEATED – In one of the most high-profile energy policy showdowns in recent memory, supporters of renewable energy were able to defeat a proposed moratorium on new Indiana electricity projects that would have stymied plans for large-scale investments in renewable energy. The intent of the bill was to save aging and increasingly expensive coal plants that still generate most of the electricity used in our state. Despite the best efforts of former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and others, renewable energy supporters were able to claim a key victory.
Bill to restore net metering policy doesn’t get a hearing – In 2017, SEA 309 drastically changed net metering policy in Indiana and injected a great deal of uncertainty that continues to hurt Indiana’s solar market. This year, SB 430 was introduced to roll back the harmful net metering provisions in the law. However, despite generating public interest, the bill wasn’t even given a hearing in the Senate Utilities Committee.
Blank checks for monopoly utilities – Out of the hundreds of bills that became law this year, none will likely have a bigger potential impact on the pocketbooks of average Hoosiers than HB 1470. This law amends previous legislation that allows electric and gas utilities to raise rates for ratepayers like you to cover costs for investments in transmission and distribution infrastructure. The so-called Transmission, Distribution, and Storage Improvement Charge (TDSIC) is added to your monthly bill outside the normal rate case process, and this law mandates that the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) must approve these charges even if the utility fails to specify what, exactly, they are recovering costs on. These TDSIC riders, as they are called, can cost Hoosiers billions of dollars in higher monthly bills over their seven-year lifespan. Despite the best effort of thousands of Hoosiers who contacted their legislators and the governor to advocate against HB 1470—which essentially hands over a blank check for monopoly utilities who can’t seem to keep their hands out of our pockets—the bill was signed into law on April 24. You can learn more about HB 1470 from our friends at the Citizens Action Coalition.
Where we go from here
While the 2019 General Assembly session had its fair share of disappointments for Indiana solar supporters, it also provided much to build on. We’ll be back next year to fight for a fair HOA solar access law in Indiana. We’ll continue building our solar movement to make sure that local solar electricity production is fairly valued and to ensure that more Hoosiers can invest in and benefit from rooftop solar. We need the support and effort of Hoosiers like you to create our vision of a clean and equitable electric system that distributes benefits and control back to local communities, with rooftop solar as the cornerstone.