Letter: Pair of bills benefit energy monopolies

From: Michael A. Mullett


This is to warn The Republic’s readers about two bills moving through the Indiana General Assembly that threaten the interests of Duke Energy Indiana residential and small-business customers — HB 1320 and SB 412.

HB 1320 is an attack by Duke and Indiana’s other investor-owned electric utility monopolies on rooftop solar systems and other types of “customer self-generation” facilities that customers can buy or lease to produce their own electricity and thereby offset part or all of the power they would otherwise buy from their utilities. This bill would change the future rate-making treatment for such systems to destroy the economic basis for their widespread adoption by more homeowners and small businesses. It would also burden the leasing of such innovative technology with unnecessary red tape designed to deter both customers and vendors. Touted by the utility monopolies as “pro-consumer” and “pro-solar,” this bill is actually a classic wolf in sheep’s clothing of which Duke customers should beware.

SB 412 was intended by Gov. Mike Pence to call for the replacement of Energizing Indiana, the highly effective energy efficiency program killed by Duke and its fellow investor-owned monopolies in the 2014 General Assembly because it was saving customers $3 on their electric bills for every $1 it spent. Instead, under utility pressure, SB 412 has become a means of ratifying the status quo so that utilities are not required to meet statewide efficiency goals but are permitted to charge their customers for up to 25 years for the revenues they lose when their customers adopt cost-effective efficiency measures. Of course, this is a self-defeating shell game benefiting only the monopoly utilities that devised it.

Duke backs both of these bills to defend its monopoly generally, but especially to protect the $10 billion revenue stream it plans to collect from its customers over the next 30 years to pay the huge capital and operating costs of its badly botched Edwardsport coal gasification plant. The typical Duke residential customer buying 1,000 kWh of electricity is already paying $12.67 per month for these Edwardsport costs, and the company recently requested regulators to increase this charge to $17.11 monthly.

Prior to my recent retirement from the practice of law, I represented Indiana utility consumers in cases before the Utility Regulatory Commission and the Indiana courts for 32 years, and I continue to teach a seminar for law students in public utility regulation and deregulation. My wife and I also have owned and operated 12 rooftop solar panels providing approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of our household electricity needs for the past 4½ years. Thus, I do have considerable experience and expertise on the subjects addressed by HB 1320 and SB 412.

Thus, I would earnestly request you to contact your state senator and representative (as I have already done) and respectfully urge them to vote no on both HB 1320 and SB 412.