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Committee Approves Bill Creating Alternative Energy Fee

Michael Coghlan

Indiana utility companies say customers who use alternative energy sources such as solar panels aren’t paying their fair share for using the state’s energy infrastructure.  A bill approved Wednesday in a House committee would allow utilities to charge future alternative energy customers a fee.

Hoosier residents and businesses who use solar panels for example and generate more energy than they use in a month can sell that energy to utility companies.  Bedford Republican Representative Eric Koch’s bill would allow utilities to buy that energy for less. It also allows utilities to charge those customers for what are called fixed costs: as Indiana Energy Association’s Mark Maassel, who represents utilities, puts it, fixed costs are used to upkeep the state’s energy grid.  And he notes even alternative energy customers need that infrastructure:

“And the expectation would be that you should pay for the grid that you need to use, not asking your neighbors to pay that particular cost,” says Maassel.

But energy consumer advocates and solar energy business owners say the bill allows utilities to pad their bottom lines while inhibiting growth in the alternative energy industry.  The legislation does not apply to any current alternative energy consumers…only future ones.  The bill passed nine to four, along party lines.  It now heads to the full House.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.
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