My family has been deeply invested in northeast Indiana for more than100 years. We look with pride at the growing vibrancy of downtown Fort Wayne and the increasing interest in the rivers across our region. But our success depends not only on our making good local decisions but also on ensuring we have good state policy to advance our community’s growth. I’m troubled by state Senate Bill 309, which would seriously undermine long-term investment in customer-owned solar energy in Indiana.
I understand that solar energy jobs are growing at nearly 12 times the pace of the private sector. I am struck by the fact that one out of every 50 new jobs in the U.S. last year was in the solar energy field. It is encouraging, too, to see homegrown solar businesses emerge in our region, such as in Fort Wayne, Avilla and Huntington. SB 309 would send a very negative investment signal for solar energy by forcing an arbitrary reduction in the value that our electricity grid attributes to solar energy. This proposed policy would be at odds with practices in more than 40 states (including Indiana) called net metering. Net metering is a policy that ensures that the utility company recognizes the value that you bring to the electric grid by crediting you at the retail rate of electricity for the power that you feed to the grid.
By barring net metering for future solar owners, SB 309 could seriously discourage investment in solar energy for schools, office buildings, farms, churches, homes and warehouses. In a state that prides itself as being friendly to business, we are yanking the welcome mat for customer-owned solar energy, for which Indiana otherwise has an attractive labor and tax environment.
I especially care about SB 309 from the vantage point of a lifelong Fort Wayne resident. We have countless buildings that could be powered by pollution-free solar energy. There is the promise that IPFW, Ivy Tech, Indiana Tech, and University of Saint Francis graduates could, one day get jobs in installation, maintenance and production of solar panels – potentially right here in manufacturing-strong northeast Indiana.
I join a great number of businesspeople, faith leaders, public interest advocates, concerned citizens, solar homeowners and school superintendents across our state who are opposed to SB 309. I urge President Pro Tem David Long and his leadership team to instead call on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to do an independent study of the benefits and costs of solar energy to the grid. Let’s not rush a radical change in policy pertaining to solar energy. Future jobs and investment in our region are at stake.