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Speakers criticize Indiana energy laws October 19, 2009

Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.

By Lana Kunz

Sunday, October 18, 2009


If net metering — an idea that allows buildings that use alternative energy sources to sell their extra power back to utilities — were a test, Indiana barely would pass, according to one report.

Indiana earned a D grade on net metering, according to the “Freeing the Grid 2008” report by the Network for New Energy Sources.

A crowd of about 30 people was educated about alternative energy Saturday at the first South West Indiana Solar Tour at the Ohio Township Public Library in Newburgh.

Several of the speakers promoted various alternative sources of energy, but the main focus was educating the public on net metering and Indiana’s limited participation requirements for power companies.

“Net metering is this idea that you can spin your meter backward when you’re not using energy,” said Eric Cotton , a partner at East Central Indiana Wind and Solar.

Net metering allows buildings with alternative energy sources to sell the excess power to the power company.

“We’re trying to make people aware that Indiana is behind the times,” said Brad Morton, president of Morton Solar and Wind LLC, which sponsored the event.

“Freeing the Grid 2008” also reports that Indiana is the only state to exclude commercial and industrial customers from net metering.

Currently Indiana’s regulations only require power companies to buy energy from residential and K-12 schools, even though some facilities “sometimes go above and beyond” what is required, Cotton said.

Vectren Energy also net meters municipal buildings, such as the Ohio Township Public Library, which has solar panels on its roof.

“The law has not caught up with the technology,” Morton said.

Some that attended the event do not rely on the power grid at all.

“We built a house where electricity isn’t available, hopefully as urban sprawl continues we can eventually connect to the grid,” said Doug Gresham, who lives north of Boonville, Ind., off the power grid.

State limits

Current state law limits not only the type of consumer that can sell back energy, but how much they can sell, the size of the system generating the alternative energy, the types of energy utilities are required to buy, pays only a wholesale rate back to the consumer and does not require all power companies to net meter.

“We’re trying to focus on getting these laws changed,” Morton said. “Most of this stuff is not new, it’s just new to Indiana.”

The event included a self-guided tour of buildings that use alter-native energy applications.

East Side resident Mark Ambrose said he attended the event, “Just to get an education, I’m very interested in the solar side of this equation.”

After purchasing a hybrid vehicle, Ambrose is “slowly embracing the need to lower the need for petroleum” and considering making the next step in adjustments to his home.

Geothermal, solar and wind power were the main alternative energy sources discussed.

“Geothermal is a way to extract energy from the earth and use it as usable energy in your home,” President of HF Refrigeration Andy Harbison said in his speech on the geothermal heating and cooling units his company installs.

Harbison said his customers have seen 40 percent to 60 percent off utilities each month with their initial investment paid back in five to seven years.

Morton showed a map compiled by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that showed Southwestern Indiana receives more solar intensity than the rest of the state. “Southwest Indiana should take the lead due to its solar resources,” Morton said.

Brad Morton with Morton Solar & Wind LLC and Eric Cotton with East Central Indiana Wind & Solar are both Founding Members of the Indiana Renewable Energy Association and both serve on the Board of Directors.

Sponsors of the meeting included Evansville-based Sustainable Communities Coalition, the Izaak Walton League of America–Evansville Chapter and the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.


1. Peter Kienle - October 19, 2009

As a homeowner who installed a 1.2kw solar array earlier this year I can only attest to Indiana being a bit backwards in net metering. We are on an electric coop and they are NOT required to net meter. Polite as they are they hooked us up and didn’t even charge us for a new meter but we get a pittance for over-production – unless we over produce during peak times when we go from something like eight cents to over six dollars for a Kwh.

Informative piece of writing although I don’t understand how so many folks always throw petroleum (as in gasoline) and stuff like solar/wind power in the same pot. We can’t run our cars on electricity yet and gasoline is not really used for power generation.

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