Net metering boosts renewable energy options

AAA Roofing installed solar panels on the roof of this house in Indianapolis to power the offices inside. The company also uses the panels as an example to show customers how to use renewable energy.

By Samm Quinn

Hoosier homeowners and businesses that invest in their own

renewable energy sources can now more easily save money and sell their leftover

electricity to the power company.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has expanded its

net metering program, which will allow utility customers who use solar panels

or wind turbines to get a return on their investments. When customers generate

more electricity than they need, they use their power lines to deliver it to the

utility and get a credit on their bills.

"We believe it will stimulate growth in the industry

and make net metering a more attractive option for those who wish to use

renewable energy in their backyards," said Danielle McGrath, spokeswoman

for the utility commission.

McGrath said it will be up to

customers to decide if they want to make use of the service, but "really

anyone and everyone can benefit."

The utility commission's new rules expand the type and size

of organizations that can advantage of net metering. Previously, it was

available only to homeowners and schools and only in smaller amounts.

The changes – which took effect last summer –

could expand the renewable energy market in Indiana.

AAA Roofing in Indianapolis installed solar panels on a house

it uses as an office building for an associated business. Chris Huntington, who

is responsible for the project, said the company installed the panels to show

its customers what they look like and what they can do, particularly now that

net metering is more widely available.

"Renewable energy is becoming so huge," Huntington

said. "We're trying to keep on the leading edge of all this


AAA Roofing posted a link on Facebook

to its monitoring system to provide real time data, pictures and historical

records of the panels' energy production. So far, the nine panels have produced

a total of 236 kilowatts of power, more than enough to power the office.

Although AAA Roofing doesn't use net metering yet,

Huntington said they would like to, and they would like to provide their

customers with the option.

"Net metering is a great, great program," he said.

"Economic times are tight for everybody. As soon as we find a customer

that is interested, we would love to get them hooked up with net


AAA Roofing's monitoring system shows that the power

produced by the panels fluctuates daily. And that's not unusual, McGrath said.

That means customers participating in net metering will

produce more energy than they need in some months – resulting in a credit

– and other months they'll need to draw from the utility company, meaning

they may use those credits or pay a bill.

Jesse Kharbanda, executive

director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the IURC's

changes are a substantial improvement to the preexisting policy.

"It's a dramatic improvement," he said. "It

doesn't catapult us into the top of states, but it opens up net metering to

every king of Hoosier."

"We think it will make installing new utilities more

affordable," he said.

Kharbanda also said the changes

will help Indiana begin to improve its environmental footprint.

"By reducing our reliance on coal plants, we can begin

to improve our environmental quality," he said.

These IURC's changes came as a

result of meetings in Indianapolis, Ellettsville and South Bend last fall and

legislation pushed by Sen. James Merritt, R-Indianapolis, during the last


The above is one of an

ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the

Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.