Indiana Bill Touts Home-grown Energy
lass=s14>Every home and business could become its own little electric utility while staying connected to the electric power grid in Indiana under a bill working its way through the General Assembly.
HB 1212, which passed the house on a 92-1 vote last week, would allow homes and businesses to hook their own renewable energy sources into large utility power grids. When their own demand is low, the home or business owner would be credited for any power fed back into the utility grid.
"Under this bill there's a real incentive for homeowners and even bigger businesses to go out and invest in these type of renewable energy sources," said Dave Menzer, of the Citizens Action Coalition. "The northern portion of the state, for example, has real potential for wind power."
Renewable power includes not only wind power, but also solar power and fuel cells.
The bill would require utilities to "net meter" renewable power sources capable of producing up to 2 megawatts of power. The power source would be connected to the grid through the home or business circuit breaker box.
Northern Indiana Public Service Co. recognizes the benefit of renewable energy sources, said Larry Graham, a NIPSCO spokesman. But the utility has concerns about the safety and reliability of its own grid if HB 1212 becomes law.
A major concern for NIPSCO is that the bill would allow renewable energy facilities producing up to 2 megawatts to feed into NIPSCO's grid, Graham said. That's electricity enough to power 800 homes.
One or more power plants of that size feeding back into the grid could overload the grid or cause other problems, Graham said.
Three large utilities in Indiana already allow customers to net meter up to 10 kilowatts of generation from approved renewable energy plants. Those are Indianapolis Power and Light, Public Service Indiana (Cinergy) and Southern Indiana Gas and Electric Co.
The 2 megawatt requirement in HB 1212 would up that kilowatt threshold 200 times.
"That is much larger than what an individual might have for their home or business," Graham said. "We are certainly getting into a larger amount of power being considered for this net metering and that's a concern."
HB 1212 was sponsored by State Rep. Ryan Dvorak, D-South Bend. It is now headed to the State Senate's Utility and Regulatory Affairs Committee.
NIPSCO has taken no express position on the bill, but has made its concerns known to lawmakers, according to Graham.
NIPSCO and its parent, NiSource Inc., have developed a number of distributed power projects over the years ranging from large cogeneration plants at steel mills to microturbines at stores and businesses.
But the companies' current investments in renewable energy are limited. NiSource subsidiaries have developed a fully integrated fuel cell residence at Sand Creek in Chesterton. NiSource also owns two small hydroelectric plants.
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