Advocate: Plan won't credit solar customers enough

By The Assocaited Press

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana office that represents the interests of utility customers is recommending that state regulators deny a utility’s request to compensate customers with solar panels less for extra energy they send back into the power grid.

Vectren, a CenterPoint Energy Company, had a proposal that would not adequately compensate customers with solar power as state law requires, the Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor said in testimony filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.

Customers currently are financially credited at retail rates for the extra electricity they send back to the power grid, the Evansville Courier & Pressreported. The arrangement to credit customers, called net metering, will be phased out beginning in 2022 under an Indiana law signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in 2017.

Vectren is seeking to end the arrangement earlier following guidelines in that same law. Opponents of Vectren’s proposal argue that it will discourage solar investments.

“We are simply aligning our rate with the intent of the policy passed by the General Assembly,” said Natalie Hedde, a company spokeswoman.

If the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approves the request, Vectren customers who install solar power after Dec. 31 would no longer be credited at a retail rate for the excess power they generate. Instead, they would receive credit at a lower wholesale price plus 25%.

Customers now being credited up to 15 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity would instead be credited about 3-4 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to the utility.

Testimony filed by the Citizens Action Coalition showed a typical customer using solar power would pay nearly $1,000 per year more on their electricity bill than under net metering. The nonprofit is not asking regulators to necessarily reject Vectren’s request, but suggests they could instead approve a different, more equitable billing arrangement.

The utility has not yet filed its own testimony and rebuttals. A hearing on the request is scheduled for Oct. 6.

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