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Holcomb signs solar energy bill

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb signed all remaining bills into law Tuesday – including ones affecting solar energy, alcohol law and newborns.

He did not issue any new vetoes, ending the session with just one.

Perhaps the most anticipated was Senate Bill 309, sponsored by Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion. It gradually lowers the reimbursement for Hoosiers who install devices to use solar or wind power.

“I support solar as an important part of Indiana’s comprehensive energy mix,” Holcomb said in a statement. “I understand the concerns some have expressed, but this legislation ensures that those who currently have interests in small solar operations will not be affected for decades.”

In the past, Hoosiers’ expense of installing such technology was offset by producing their own energy and being able to sell any excess back to the power grid – at a premium rate.

But Senate Bill 309 reduces the payback through net metering over time.

Under the final version, anyone who installs solar panels or wind turbines by the end of this year will get the higher retail rate for their excess energy for 30 years. This grandfathering is meant to allow people to recoup the investment cost of the equipment.

Those who install solar or wind devices in the next five years will get the full retail rate for up to 15 years, but the longer people wait, the fewer number of years they will have at that rate. After 2022, anyone who installs the technology will receive a lower wholesale rate plus a premium of 25 percent.

Utility companies pushed for the bill, saying right now other customers are subsidizing solar users to be on the grid. But opponents packed hearings to oppose the bill, saying it puts residential and business solar at a severe disadvantage and effectively kills the market.

A group even delivered 350 petition signatures to Holcomb’s office earlier this week – on a solar panel.

“By signing SB 309, Governor Holcomb has chosen to go against his No. 1 legislative priority, which is for Indiana to be a magnet for jobs,” said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. “SB 309 puts Indiana in a worse off position vis-a-vis our neighbors – and Midwestern competitors – with respect to customer-owned solar energy generation.”

Holcomb also signed House Bill 1496, a last-minute effort by lawmakers to plug a loophole that allowed two convenience stores to sell cold beer and liquor for carryout.

“I sign this bill with the understanding we need to review and make common-sense changes to Indiana’s alcohol laws,” the governor said.

Read full article at The Journal Gazette