Legislative Issues Reference Guide Indiana Electric Cooperatives (IEC) publishes this document as a reference to many of the issues we continue to face in state government. While these statements reflect our current summary positions on the referenced issues, this document is only intended to be a primer for discussion on these specific issues. IEC, on behalf of Indiana’s 39 electric distribution cooperatives, our two generation and transmission cooperatives (G&Ts), and the more than 1.3 million Hoosiers they serve, provides our positions to these primary legislative and regulatory issues.
Renewable Energy and Statewide Mandates
Currently, Indiana’s electric cooperatives lead in the development of new sources of alternative energy to complement our traditional, fossil fuel power plants. In addition to utilizing wind and solar energy, we are leaders in discovering energy potential across the state and region as we burn recoverable natural gas produced at landfills and from coal bed methane in southern Indiana.
IEC has traditionally opposed state renewable energy mandates that require arbitrary percentages of our energy portfolio to come from alternative or renewable sources of energy. We believe that a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) or Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) takes away a key advantage of cooperative members from their long-term planning of energy needs and adversely impacts our business model as well.
Our philosophy on this issue extends to nearly all legislative and regulatory mandates on types of energy we should invest in at the local and G&T level. Indiana’s electric cooperatives believe in the long-term goal of looking to cleaner sources of energy, and we will continue to invest in ways that meet the demands of our membership and do so in a way that is realistic, reliable, and affordable.
Net Metering Mandates
A state net metering mandate would typically require our cooperatives to purchase member-owned distributed energy at a full retail rate. We believe each democratically-elected board should maintain the authority to reimburse a member for their excess energy at a wholesale, retail, or separate rate at their choosing.
Indiana’s electric cooperatives support distributed renewable energy development and follow all industry standard practices dealing with interconnection. We also encourage and promote electrical safety with all distributed energy sources. Our cooperatives are industry leaders in providing unbiased, real-world data to their members. They do this by analyzing the costs, energy production, and long-term value of varied cooperative-owned projects throughout the state.
In dealing with larger distributed energy projects, our Generation and Transmission cooperatives (G&Ts) work individually with each project owner to benefit all parties through purchase power agreements (PPAs). We believe each cooperative, whether local or G&T should maintain the democratic authority and cooperative principles delegated by their membership.
Feed-In Tariffs (FITs) are typically designed as government-mandated utility reimbursement rates for specific types of alternative sources of energy. This policy idea goes beyond Net Metering in that different rates are often set to subsidize different sources of alternative energy.
Statutes mandating FITs have been passed in other states and countries and often lead to unsustainable and unbalanced subsidization of particular renewable sources over others. In the United States, states like California and some sun belt cities have experimented with publicly supported FITs to subsidize solar development.
IEC wholly opposes FITs as a way to encourage renewable energy development as it violates our cooperative principle of equal economic participation of our members. We believe, in much the same way as Net Metering attempts, Indiana’s electric cooperatives should not be forced to subsidize any one member’s decision to purchase and deploy a renewable energy project for their benefit.
Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Management
Indiana’s electric cooperatives are committed to and heavily invested in effective, long-term plans in energy efficiency and demand side management. Both Hoosier Energy and Wabash Valley Power (G&Ts) offer demand side management programs that work to help curb future energy demand on co-op generation and transmission. These programs incentivize the removal of older, less efficient appliances and provide rebates for energy intensive purchases like efficient HVAC and water heating units.
Advancements in technology also allow local cooperatives to better prepare for and manage the most demanding peak times of energy usage during the year. These voluntary programs allow consumers to save personal cost by allowing their HVAC units and other high-demand sources to be cycled for a short time during the hottest and coldest days of the year. These programs are essential in keeping costs lower for both consumers and their local cooperative by lowering the demand of whole local cooperative systems.
Local cooperatives are also engaged in concerted efforts to promote energy efficiency through efficiency education, the distribution of energy efficient lighting, and in home energy audits to help members better understand how to manage their energy use.
IEC continues to partner with local cooperatives and our G&Ts to promote energy efficiency and demand side management as valuable tools in the planning of future resource needs.
Easements and Tree Trimming
Recent work at the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) has settled the issue of tree trimming and a utility’s right to trim trees that encroach upon easements and rights of way around utility infrastructure. While Indiana’s electric cooperatives are not governed by these new IURC guidelines, IEC understands such guidelines are the state’s recognized standard in this area.
Smart Grid, Smart Metering, and Meter Technology Advancements
In recent years, Indiana’s electric cooperatives have begun to invest in and implement technology solutions that improve efficiency and communication between the cooperative, their system infrastructure, and their members. While the pace of technology advancement is left to each cooperative, we are leaders in this area using advanced two-way meters, high-speed communication between substations and infrastructure, and empowering members to save energy through comprehensive energy audits and technology-driven demand management solutions for water heaters and air conditioning equipment.
IEC opposes any broad regulation or mandate on this front as each cooperative seeks these improvements at the pace their board directs.
Pole Attachments and Joint Use of Infrastructure
As partners in the utility industry, we are primary providers of the infrastructue that feeds the energy and technology needs of Hoosiers. Every pole and easement that a cooperative maintains is a pathway for the delivery of telecommunications services through the use of pole attachments, or places on a particular pole that a cooperative allows another company to attach their line or cable.
IEC opposes additional regulation in the area of pole attachments at both the commission level and in the legislature. We believe current pole attachment regulation is fair in allowing each cooperative to determine the best, cost-effective rates for their membership. This autonomy and independence is a key factor to protecting local cooperative’s continued low-cost service to their membership.
IEC supports utilizing a variety of energy processes in order to provide clean, safe, and reliable energy to our member cooperatives. Hydraulic fracturing, or the process of removing natural gas from difficult locations using fluid and pressure, is a topic of significant debate. During the 2010 legislative session, we were first to the table in helping to develop Indiana’s first regulations of this practice. We believe that appropriate regulation in this area is crucial to providing public awareness and trust in the process that oversees private development, or any future development of our own in this area.
Indiana’s electric cooperatives are currently engaged in the development and extraction of coal bed methane from coal seams in southern Indiana as part of an effort to find cleaner sources of energy to complement our portfolio. While this development does not currently require the use of hydraulic fracturing, we will continue to advocate for a strong and fair regulatory environment that would protect cooperatives and their members as we develop this resource.
Indiana’s electric cooperatives are integral to rural economic development in our state. While our primary goal remains to provide safe, reliable, and affordable electricity to our members, we are actively involved in economic development policy and opportunities at the Statehouse and in local communities. We are advocates for responsible policies on property taxation, rural development zones, infrastructure development, and other pertinent issues of interest to the rural communities we serve.
IEC believes cooperatives can and should play this vital role by continuing to partner with like-minded friends in government, other organizations and associations, and those within our industry concerned with and engaged in economic development.
In recent years, a growing chorus of rural stakeholders, including Indiana’s electric cooperatives, have pushed for a broadened dialogue on the issue of access to Broadband in rural Indiana. Broadband access is a vital component for communities looking to attract economic development. We encourage the partnership of government, our cooperatives, and those in the telecommunications marketplace to help solve the problem of underserved communities in Indiana through policy or practice to better serve the communities Indiana’s electric cooperatives serve.