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Bill Would “Dismantle” Energy Efficiency In Indiana

January 27, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana's energy-efficiency programs could be dismantled under legislation now at the Statehouse. The Demand Side Management program relies on both large and small users of electricity, but Senate Bill 340 would allow the large industrial users to opt out. The measure was written by Republican state Senator James Merritt and passed out of the Senate Utilities Committee last week.

According to Ethan Rogers, senior program manager for industry at the American Council on an Energy-Efficient Economy, energy-efficiency projects in the industrial setting yield the most savings, and without them, the programs will not achieve maximum efficiency.

"That means you're getting the more expensive energy-efficiency resources; you're not balancing that with lower cost energy-efficiency resources, and so your cost of what you're acquiring is higher than it needs to be," he said.

The programs have been in place for a couple of years, and Jodi Perras with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign said Hoosiers already have saved enough to power 64,000 homes for a year. She said efficiency also reduces the need to construct costly new power plants.

"Ohio and Illinois are seeing great gains and energy-efficiency programs are keeping their electric rates lower, (but) meanwhile Indiana is stuck in the old mindset of, 'Let's let the utilities build as many power plants as they want and we'll all be fine,'" Perras declared.

Some industrial users have complained that they don't get as much benefit from the program as they pay into it, but Perras said there are other options to opting out, including a self-directed energy-efficiency program that would hold them accountable.

Kerwin Olson, the executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, said energy efficiency works against rising costs by reducing electricity demand and lowering rate increases for everyone. And he said the state needs to look for ways to become more efficient.

"Energy efficiency is the cheapest resource and the cheapest kilowatt-hour of electricity that we can generate," he said. "It's a win for the economy in creating jobs, saving businesses money, and it's a win for homeowners in reducing the cost of energy and making their homes more comfortable."

A recent forecast from Purdue University found electricity use in the state will rise less than 1 percent annually through 2031, almost half the previous estimate, primarily because of increases in efficiency.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN