The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) and six other groups want Indiana to deny CenterPoint Energy’s request to give people with solar panels fewer credits for energy they deliver to the grid.
Right now, electric utilities subtract how much energy someone with solar panels uses from how much they produce for the grid over a whole month. Solar customers then get credits for any excess energy they deliver.
Jason Stephenson — vice president of CenterPoint's regulatory legal group — said this would give new solar customers an unfairly high amount, basically forcing other customers without solar to subsidize their bills.
“They would be getting a credit that would offset their usage and essentially be getting electricity from CenterPoint for free," he said.
Instead, Stephenson said CenterPoint wants to look at how energy flows in and out for solar customers almost in real time — only giving them credits for those moments they produce more energy than they use.
Laura Ann Arnold is the president of the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance or Indiana DG. She said this other method of calculating excess energy would put people who plan to invest in solar panels at a disadvantage — but more importantly she said this other method isn’t part of the state’s net metering law.
“CenterPoint did not adhere to the state law and the commission authorized something that was not contained within the state legislation," Arnold said.
Stephenson disagrees. He said the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission looked at the state law carefully and agreed that the legislature did not intend for utilities to use monthly metering.
CenterPoint, formerly known as Vectren, is one of five utilities that want to move to lower rates for solar customers. Anthony Swinger with the OUCC said those utilities could decide to follow CenterPoint's lead regarding how they calculate excess energy — so the state needs clarity on this.
"The outcome of this case is going to provide guidance and that's all the more reason why we believe the appellate court should have a look," he said.
Swinger said, for the OUCC, this is strictly a legal issue regarding what's laid out in state law and that the agency doesn't advocate for or against distributed generation.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.