Appeal filed against proposed solar panel reimbursement plan

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EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT)– A coalition of groups filed a lawsuit to prevent CenterPoint Energy from changing the way it calculates bills for people with solar panels. The groups say the change is anti-green and will discourage others from installing solar panels. CenterPoint says its new plan is fair, and it will keep prices down for most consumers.

If a home with solar panels produces more energy than it uses, that extra energy goes into the grid to be used by other customers. When this happens, the homeowner receives a credit similar to what CenterPoint would charge them for the same amount of energy. The process is known as net-metering.

Net metering is expected to become a thing of the past for future renewable energy users. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved a plan allowing CenterPoint to give renewable energy producers 2.7 cents/kWh credit for the energy they produce instead of the going rate customers pay of 15 cents/ kWh.

“We can go power buy power for less than two cents so if we are paying for a live at 15 cents all that does is raise the cost that all of our customers have to pay,” explained Jason Stevenson, CenterPoint Energy’s Associate General Counsel Vice President.

Still, some groups are unhappy with this authorization. This includes Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance (IndianaDG) being one of them.

“We are very concerned that it sets a bad precedence for the other utilities and not just bad news for CenterPoint Electric customers who are trying to go renewable,” said Laura Ann Arnold, President of Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance.

IndianaDG is one of the groups joining involved in a legal fight against the order. They joined the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC) who filed an appeal.

“We believe the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission errored and made a huge overreach in allowing CenterPoint to use something called “instantaneous netting” and we believe that is contrary to the Indiana state law enacted in 2017.”

The plan does not effect homes already producing solar power, just those who add solar panels after the rate goes into effect. Alex Schmitt from Morton Solar & Electric says this grandfathers in a small percentage of customers.

“As a state I think we are at 0.5% renewable energy. Vectren [CenterPoint Energy] is around 1.5 so it’s a very, very small portion of our energy is coming from solar and it’s just very premature to start cutting it off at this point,” Schmitt said he thinks it’s too soon to stop paying renewable energy users the full retail price. CenterPoint Energy leaders say even with the proposed decrease in energy credit, customers will still be credited more than wholesale price.

CenterPoint Energy expects the new calculation system to go into effect early June.

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