Lawmakers Remove Financial Incentives from Voluntary Renewable Siting Bill

February 22, 2022

A bill that sought to incentivize the spread of commercial renewable energy systems in Indiana has moved forward in the Indiana Legislature, but without the incentives.

Senate Bill 411 originally established a commercial renewable energy development center within the Indiana Economic Development Corp. The center would have certified communities that voluntarily adopted specific siting standards as wind- or solar-ready communities.

That certification would have allowed those communities to receive $1 per megawatt hour produced, a financial incentive in addition to taxes received and other compensation agreed upon between the local community and the renewable energy company.

That version of the bill had widespread support from business groups, environmental organizations and electric utility trade organizations and passed the Indiana Senate Feb. 1.

The bill also survived the House Committee on Utilities, Energy and Communications, which approved the version unanimously.

But differing accounts of where the $1 incentive would come from led to the provision’s removal from the bill.

“It required funding, but the funding in it was vague,” said bill co-sponsor Rep. Ed Soliday.

Sen. Mark Messmer, the bill’s main sponsor, intimated Jan. 20 that the funding would come in the form of an IEDC grant paid for by the state, and on Feb. 16 he said the renewable energy developer would pay for the incentive.

The bill’s text makes no mention of where the money would come from.

Soliday introduced an amendment removing the incentivization portion of the bill during a hearing of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

“It makes the bill without funding sort of arcane,” said Soliday. “If something were going to be funded with renewable energy, it would probably need to be an appropriation in some form other than the bill.”

What is left in the bill establishes minimum statewide standards for commercial renewable energy system siting for communities that choose to adopt them.

“What we're hoping to do with getting this policy out there is give guidance to communities of what group of stakeholders have agreed to. There is no mandatory here. Now, when there is funding, if you want funding, then you'll have to comply with these,” Soliday said.

The Indiana Environmental Reporter reached out to media representatives for both Soliday and Messmer to find out if, how and when they intended to pursue funding for the incentive, but none have yet responded.

Senate Bill 411, like other renewable energy bills, faces opposition from groups opposed to renewable energy systems anywhere in the state.

Columbus wealth management advisor Matt Carothers told the committee renewable-friendly legislation would negatively affect home and property values. Carothers performatively tore a dollar bill in half. Committee members informed him he may have violated federal law by doing so.

Other anti-wind advocates also spoke in opposition to the bill, citing reliability issues and the potential loss of some Indiana farmland.

The bill also faces opposition from coal-friendly groups like Hoosiers for Reliable Energy, a group that popped up in 2021 and uses right wing QAnon conspiracy theory imagery from Indiana coal concerns to kill lawmakers’ attempts to foster renewable energy in the state.

“We have tried to find things that satisfy the spokespeople for the stakeholders. There are folks that are just absolutely opposed to renewable, and all I can say is, ‘It's here.’ Business wants it. There is a market. We're trying to take a balanced approach. The grid will take 30%. We're at about 7%,” said Soliday.

The bill passed the committee unanimously and now heads to the full Indiana House of Representatives for consideration.

Lawmakers Remove Financial Incentives from Voluntary Renewable Siting Bill