Let The Sun Shine In!

    Some homeowners and landlords were really smart, really ahead of the times when they solarized houses 20 years ago–or even 40–years ago. Very early in the 21st century, a couple originally from Montgomery County solarized a house outside of San Francisco. “People wondered what I was doing, but it’s been low cost power all the way.”      

     About a dozen years ago at the start of more mainstream solarizing, “net metering” was introduced all across the nation and here in Indiana to help our nation shift more swiftly to renewable energies. This process was beneficial to utility customer.  as a mechanism, net metering was meant to help incentivize homeowners to install solar by making the investment more economical. In essence, it credits homeowners for excess energy they generate and send back onto grid. This reduces an individual’s energy bills, lessening the burden of cost installation over the long term. Many appreciate the environmental benefits as well. Large utility companies didn’t find this so beneficial.

     In 2017, the Indiana legislature and Governor Holcomb began to phase out net metering for large investor-owned utilities (IOUs) only (such as Duke Energy). The law did not affect REMCs (like Tipmont) nor municipal utilities (like Crawfordsville Electric Light and Power). Those two types of utilities can make their own rules regarding credit for excess electricity. Tipmont still currently has net metering. So does CEL&P, though they have a cap on the amount of customer-owned solar they can have in their service territory and are nearing that capacity.

     This reality, though, has not quashed the solar industry in our state (though it is currently stalled in our county). While Governor Holcomb was widely critiqued by environmental groups and by alternative energy producers in 2017 for signing the bill which, in effect, ended net metering, five years later our governor has become a kind of international poster child for championing industrial solar projects in our state.     

     In November of 2022, he was in Pulaski County to introduce the second phase of the Mammoth Solar Project. That 1.5-billion-dollar renewable energy project is meant to bring 1.3 gigawatts of clean energy to span across 275 thousand households when complete. That same month Governor Holcomb went to Egypt for a UN conference to tout Indiana’s solar capacity among other things. In February 2023, Governor Holcomb told a Bloomberg News podcast that “You’re seeing a state like Indiana really punch way above its weight class” in the development of solar farms. And it’s no wonder. Current estimates put renewable energy costs at about ⅓ of natural gas or coal-fired plant costs to run an industry. This is a huge reversal that has taken place in the last quarter century.

     Despite the roller coaster of energy change and our state’s “yes” to big business and “not so much” to individuals, small business, or non-profits, Indiana citizens and non-profits are solarizing apace. A lot is happening in our city and county right now.

       SUN (Solar United Neighbors) Co-op is making this big energy transition easier for the average citizen to understand. The change can be economically advantageous for individuals, small businesses, and non-profits, including churches. Anyone in Montgomery County can join the SUN Solar and EV Charger Co-op of Tippecanoe and Montgomery Counties to learn more with no pressure or obligation. The co-op gives individuals access to unbiased expert help and adds on the value of a community network. Since the co-op is not a sales company, it has the good of the co-op members in mind. The co-op is able to get a sizable economic advantage because of bargaining as a whole.

     For most Hoosiers, this is a new energy world, and we need some education. On June 16, SUN’s regional director Dan Robinson gave a Solar 101 presentation at LWVMC’s Lunch with the League, with more coming. Readers of this column can take advantage of three upcoming Solar 101 presentations: 

     July 19    6 pm Wea Prairie Branch Library (4200 S. 18th Street, Lafayette)

     July 26    6:30 pm Zoom Webinar:  Register at 101

     August 17   6:30    Zoom Webinar:  Register at 101

     At Solar 101 presentations you learn about solar energy and its benefits for your home or small business. The presentation clearly explains technology, economic issues, financial and more. Attendees learn how the co-op was launched.

      SUN Co-op membership is free, and members are not obligated to buy solar panels. The deadline to sign up to be a member of SUN (Solar United Neighbors Coop) is August 31. Visit SUN on its website: Our energy future is brightening. Those who decide to solarize now not only have the buying power of the Co-op to benefit from, but thanks to the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), homeowners, businesses, and non-profits, can tap into the 30% investment tax credit.

– The League of Women Vot¬ers is a nonpartisan, multi-is¬sue political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government. For information about the League, visit the website; or, visit the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County, Indiana Facebook page.