Court rules against CenterPoint billing methods for solar panels
EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - An Indiana Court of Appeals ruled against the method CenterPoint Energy was using to bill customers with solar panels.
In 2017, Indiana passed a law that decreased the credit given to utility customers with solar panels on their homes. This decreased the value of solar panels.
“Just that change in billing methodology had a significant implication on the value of those solar panels to customers,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizen Action Coalition.
Before the change, for example, if you used 600 kwh during a month and your solar panels generated 400 kwh back to the grid, you were only charged for 200 kwh.
CenterPoint proposed a plan that decreased the credit. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved and implemented the plan, so customers would still be billed for the 600 kwh, and a smaller credit based on the 400 kwh from their panels would be subtracted from the total.
This method led to a 20-30% decrease in credits to customers. This method is what the court of appeals struck down.
“At least with this clarification from the court, there remains some mechanism that customers have to put solar on their roofs and have it be somewhat of a financial benefit,” said Olson. “You know, under the regime that the commission approved, we believe solar would have all been but dead in the state of Indiana.”
The work isn’t over for those advocating for customers. There are four other investor-owned utility companies in the state attempting to do something similar to CenterPoint. Those who agree with the court’s ruling say this is a good start, though.
“We believe this is a significant ruling that will go a long way in protecting customers’ abilities and rights to go solar and generate their own energy and be reasonably compensated for those investments,” said Olson.
We reached out to CenterPoint for a comment.
CenterPoint’s statement said, “We continue reviewing the court’s decision and weighing options on behalf of our customers. CenterPoint Energy believes rightsizing the payment made to customers that return energy to the grid is important to ensure a balance between the interests of customers that own generation and those that do not. CenterPoint Energy’s Rate EDG replaced a payment structure that resulted in customers without their own generation subsidizing customers with generation, even though all customers continue to depend on CenterPoint Energy’s infrastructure. We will work toward and are in support of an option that is fair for all customers.”
The court’s decision isn’t the end. All parties have 30 days to file for reconsideration.
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