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Make net metering, renewable energy an issue

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Indiana Lawyer Focus


Energy is one of the major issues environmentalists and lawyers who work with companies concerned about green technology are keeping an eye on during the 2010 Indiana legislative session.

Those include net metering, the concept that those who create energy can get credits from utility companies when they produce more energy than they consume; and the idea of a renewable energy standard, a certain percent of electricity is generated through renewable sources such as wind power, solar power, and biomass.

These issues were highlighted at Conservation Day at the Indiana Statehouse Jan 26. The Indiana Conservation Alliance, a group of more than 30 organizations that focus on environmental issues, hosted the event.

For a renewable energy standard, the alliance suggested Indiana adopts a goal that by 2021, 20 percent of Indiana's electricity be generated by renewable energy.

So far, every state in the upper Midwest except Indiana has a renewable energy standard. In Illinois and Minnesota, 25 percent of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2025. In Ohio, 12.5 percent of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2025. In Michigan, the goal is for 10 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2015.

These goals are not only obtainable, but important for job growth and to put Indiana on the map as a place that embraces green technology and manufacturing, said Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, a member organization of the Indiana Conservation Alliance.

Indiana has also been recognized as a good place for manufacturers of green technology to set up shop, he said.

The Indiana Office of Energy Development reported Feb. 10 that 11 Hoosier companies manufacture wind turbine components, employing 1,000 Indiana workers. That number is expected to jump by at least 500 in 2010.

The office also reported the American Wind Energy Association ranked Indiana second in terms of the growth of wind power in 2009; Indiana was the leading state in 2008.

"Indiana has moved from 50th to 13th among wind-producing states; Indiana wind farms now produce 1,036 MW of electricity per year; each MW of electricity can power between 300 and 500 homes," according to the Office of Energy Development's release.

Attorney Anne Gorham of Lexington, Ky.-based firm Stites & Harbison agreed with Kharbanda about the importance of having a renewable energy standard; the firm also has an office in Jeffersonville, Ind. She has done research about renewable energy standards in states around the country and sympathized with Indiana - Kentucky doesn't have a renewable energy standard either.

Among the reasons both states don't yet have a standard, she said, is both are heavily reliant on coal, which is one reason they have less expensive utility costs than other states.

There is also the likelihood there will eventually be federal legislation that would address renewable energy as a way to deal with climate change, not to mention utility companies that don't see the value - at least not in the short term - in the high costs to build the plants, she said.

Some states, such as Illinois and Pennsylvania, that have implemented renewable energy standards are already taking effective measures to generate renewable energy. States that don't yet have standards might ultimately need to purchase energy from other states, Gorham said.

Kharbanda agreed, adding a benefit of state legislation as opposed to waiting for federal legislation would be the possibility to include language that would encourage the renewable energy to come from Indiana, therefore creating Indiana jobs and keeping more money here as opposed to sending it to other states.

Senate Bill 94 addressed this issue and called for 20 percent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2021, but that bill stalled in the Committee on Utilities & Technology with no movement since early January.

Kharbanda said it's difficult to tell what will happen in the 2011 session. If the governor strongly supported it because of his stance supporting the creation of jobs in green technology, or if federal legislation about climate change has significant movement in 2010, he said Indiana legislators might be more likely to pass a renewable energy standard.

However, in this session the legislature will likely pass a bill regarding net metering, which would also encourage individuals and companies to produce their own renewable energy, Kharbanda said.

To explain net metering, Kharbanda used the example of a homeowner who has a solar panel that generates electricity for his home. If the solar panel generates 1,200 kilowatt hours in August, but the home only uses 1,000 of those kilowatt hours, the homeowner would ideally get a credit of 200 hours from the utility company if there was a statute for net metering.

So when the solar panel generates 500 kilowatt hours in September and the home uses 800 kilowatt hours, the owner will be able to use the 200 kilowatt hours in credit and pay for only 100 kilowatt hours to make up the difference that month, he said.

Ideally, legislation would include all classes of energy users, including homeowners, and small and large businesses, and would allow for a high cap on the amount of energy or credits for energy those users would get from utility companies.

Three bills that address this are House Bill 1094, SB 97, and SB 313.

HB 1094 passed the House 78-21 Feb. 2 and was referred to the Senate Committee on Utilities and Technology Feb. 8. SB 313 passed the Senate 49 to 1 Feb. 2 and was referred to the House Committee on Commerce, Energy, Technology and Utilities Feb. 8. SB 97 was denied a hearing and died in committee.

"We're much more comfortable with HB 1094, which would allow our net metering policy to in some ways converge with many of the country's leading policies. It opens net metering to all customers. Furthermore, it allows net metering to be opened enough to meet all customers' electric load. Even if a company had a load of 5 megawatt hours, this bill, in theory, would allow a company to be credited up to 5 megawatt hours, he said.

"In contrast, in SB 313, limits are significantly lower, at 200 kilowatt hours. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission could boost those limits, but that's unlikely because the commission tends to be conservative on those issues," he said.

Either way, he added, "both bills would be an improvement over our current policy. We're one of the worst states in the country on this issue."

Other legislative priorities specifically for the Hoosier Environmental Council in 2010 include industrial livestock operations, forest protection, and sustainable cities. Conservation Day also addressed the reauthorization of the Lakes Management Workgroup and the discussion of creating a study to determine the effects of phosphorus in lawn fertilizers.

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  1. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  2. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  3. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  4. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  5. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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