GUEST COMMENTARY: Legislation would kill Indiana's energy efficiency programs

2014-02-28T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: Legislation would kill Indiana's energy efficiency programsBy Martin Kushler nwitimes.com
February 28, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The Indiana Legislature is rushing through a bill that would terminate the state’s successful energy efficiency program, even though an independent evaluation has shown the programs are saving ratepayers $2 in costs for every dollar spent on the programs.

If this attack on energy efficiency programs succeeds, future electricity costs will rise by hundreds of millions of dollars for Hoosier families, small businesses, churches and ratepayers across the state.

Results in Indiana and nationwide show energy efficiency programs save electricity at less than one-third the cost of building, fueling and operating a new power plant. If the proposed bill succeeds, future electricity costs will be higher for all Indiana ratepayers, because much more expensive electric generation resources (like Duke Energy’s $3.5 billion Edwardsport coal gasification plant) will have to be purchased.

In just a few short years, Indiana’s energy efficiency programs are already saving Hoosiers money, providing energy savings for thousands across Indiana and supporting hundreds of local jobs.

In Northwest Indiana, for example, the energy efficiency programs are providing cost savings benefits to schools from Michigan City to LaPorte by helping school districts conserve electricity. 

This attack comes as a surprise because the current programs are already working quite well. Indiana recently achieved full-scale implementation of the statewide energy efficiency programs, and recent progress helped the state move up six spots in the rankings of ACEEE’s 2013 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard to 27th, ahead of states like Kentucky and Missouri. Just the statewide “core” energy efficiency programs alone are saving 25 times as much electricity as the utilities were under the old “voluntary” approach in 2008.

An independent evaluation of the first year of programs conducted in 2013 showed the energy savings benefits were exceeding the costs by a 2:1 margin, resulting in savings that will total over $80 million from just that one year of programs. 

The current energy efficiency programs were created under order of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in 2009, after many months of investigation and hearings determined Indiana utilities were doing almost nothing to provide energy efficiency programs to their customers.

Yet now the Legislature is rushing to kill these programs in a matter of weeks, without taking any testimony from, or even discussing the results of, the independent evaluators who have carefully examined these programs.

Supporters of energy efficiency are working to rally opposition to Senate Bill 340, but are hampered by the fact that this bill was dropped without advance warning and is being rushed through the Legislature on a very fast track. Presumably this is to avoid allowing the bill’s negative impacts to reach the public’s attention.

Good public policy would suggest the Legislature should slow down and conduct a thorough and objective review of energy policy before moving forward.

Martin Kushler is a senior fellow at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The opinions are the writer's.

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