2014 Indiana General Assembly

Lawmakers flip off-switch on state's energy savings program

2014-03-10T19:34:00Z 2014-03-10T20:54:19Z Lawmakers flip off-switch on state's energy savings programBy Dan Carden dan.carden@nwi.com, (317) 637-9078 nwitimes.com

INDIANAPOLIS | The fate of Energizing Indiana, the 2-year-old statewide energy-efficiency program that helps homeowners and businesses reduce their energy use, is in the hands of Republican Gov. Mike Pence.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 37-8 Monday to accept the House-approved changes to Senate Bill 340, which require the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to wind down the program by the end of the year, rather than extending it for five more years.

State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, the sponsor, said the projected $1.2 billion cost through 2019 is not worth it because Indiana likely won't meet its goal of reducing energy usage by 2 percent a year.

"We need to be sure this expensive program, funded by ratepayers, is a worthwhile and valuable investment," Merritt said. "While Energizing Indiana was able to generate energy savings in its initial years of operation, experts indicate the program is struggling to find additional ways to save ratepayers' costs."

The legislation requires the IURC tally Energizing Indiana's past costs and benefits by Aug. 15, which Merritt said could be used to justify keeping the program.

However, the plan calls for the program to be terminated Dec. 31, and the General Assembly does not meet again until January — once it adjourns for the year later this week — making it impossible for the existing program to continue if the proposal is signed into law.

Jodi Perras, of the Sierra Club, said Pence should veto the legislation to preserve Hoosier jobs and protect electric customers from the much-higher costs of building new power plants.

"In just its first year, Energizing Indiana saved enough energy to power 64,000 homes for a year," she said. "Ending our state's successful energy efficiency program will cost our state hundreds of Hoosier jobs and raise electricity rates for families, schools, churches and many more throughout Indiana."

The measure permits utilities to establish their own independent, energy-efficiency programs starting in 2015.

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