EVANSVILLE — The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled that CenterPoint Energy can bill customers for solar panels as originally requested in 2020, meaning customers are likely to receive reduced credits for the energy they produce.
The court agreed with a decision by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, not the reversal ordered by the Indiana Court of Appeals in February 2022. The Court of Appeals had ruled in favor of consumer groups, who said the change would fall short of the total savings for customers using solar.
The Court of Appeals ruled that state law SEA 309 requires billing to be calculated as the difference between energy consumed and energy returned to the grid. The Indiana Supreme Court justices disagreed, saying that CenterPoint’s proposed “instant” netting method did not violate state law.
“When the General Assembly transitioned the system to a new system for distributed surplus generation, it did not direct utilities to measure how often distributed surplus generation was required,” the finding reads.
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In the previous agreement, solar-powered customers received a credit for their additional electricity at the same rate that CenterPoint charges others for that electricity in a one-to-one retail credit at the end of the billing cycle.
The judges wrote that the IURC acted correctly in granting CenterPoint’s request because the law does not require a specific time for measuring the flow of energy to the customer versus the utility.
Judge Derek Molter did not participate in the trial because he represented Vectren Energy Delivery while working as an attorney in Ice Miller’s Indianapolis office.
When the IURC originally approved the request, local solar advocates feared the change would discourage homeowners from installing solar panels. They argued this would make it harder to recoup investment in solar panels and slow the growth of rooftop solar in Indiana.
CenterPoint will apply for a new excess distributed generation tariff in March.
Through a spokesman, the utility said Instantaneous Netting “better balances the interests of all customers who choose not to install solar rooftops or other qualifying customer-owned generation without impeding customers who have installed their own generation.”