Gov. Mike Pence and the Republican-controlled legislature appear poised to continue dismantling an important energy efficiency plan developed during the Mitch Daniels administration.
The Senate Utilities Committee passed Senate Bill 412, which purports to take up where the Energize Indiana Plan left off when it was stopped by legislators last year. But it takes a plan that had demonstrated success and hands much more of the control over it to the utility companies whose mission is to sell energy.
The energy efficiency program established in 2009 noted that “saving energy is the most cost effective way of meeting future energy supply needs.” A statewide independent contractor ran five “core” programs and utility companies ran other utility-specific programs.
The core programs of home energy assessments, residential lighting, low-income weatherization, energy efficient schools and commercial and industrial programs showed significant savings in energy use. In 2013 the savings was 512,388,830 kilowatt hours, according to a report from the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance.
Under Senate Bill 412, utilities run all the programs. They may hire an independent contractor themselves, but the state cannot.
With Energizing Indiana, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission set annual statewide goals and an independent contractor evaluated and verified utility energy savings and cost effectiveness using a statewide technical manual. Under Senate Bill 412, the utilities set their own goals and are able to propose their own evaluation and verification programs.
The bill also gives utilities much leeway when it defines energy efficiency as savings that are “reasonably achievable.” Definitions of reasonably achievable could vary widely between the source of energy and the consumer of it.
Last summer, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission issued a report completed by the Energy Center of Wisconsin that noted Energize Indiana had produced overall net benefits. It noted, “energy efficiency programs create negative impacts only for one segment — those who don’t participate in the programs.”
The legislature, though, appears undaunted in its desire to make changes that would tilt the playing field toward the companies rather than individual consumers.
As might be expected, Senate Bill 412 is being roundly criticized by groups focused on environmental issues.
“Energy efficiency means lower energy bills and less reliance on expensive power plants, creating savings for all Hoosier families and small businesses,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, in a statement. “… It’s time for our elected officials to stand up for the interests and financial security of ordinary Hoosier families by keeping energy efficiency strong and out of the total control of those who sell electricity.”
Energize Indiana was working for Hoosiers. Stopping it was a bad idea, and changing it to what’s proposed is too.
This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.