Indiana Gov. Mike Pence let the Energizing Indiana program end without his signature. Pulling the plug on that program shouldn't be the end of a push for energy conservation.
Environmental groups fought Senate Enrolled Act 340.
"I could not sign this bill because it does away with a worthwhile energy efficiency program," Pence said Thursday. "I could not veto this bill because doing so would increase the cost of utilities for Hoosier ratepayers and make Indiana less competitive by denying relief to large electricity consumers."
Energizing Indiana offers home energy assessments, low-income home weatherization, rebates on energy-efficient products and other efforts. The program began in January 2012. Under the new law, it is set to end on Dec. 31, 2014.
Instead, he hopes to propose an alternative program for Indiana legislators to consider next year. That's essential.
This new law must not be the end of the discussion of Indiana's energy and environmental needs.
The State Utility Forecasting Group reports regularly on Indiana's energy needs. A rebounding economy will mean additional demand for electricity, and the state must be prepared to meet it.
There are just two choices -- build more power plants or save enough energy through conservation programs to reduce the need for new plants.
Indiana's manufacturing and utility interest groups argued against Energizing Indiana, saying the program was too costly and industrial users were seeing few benefits. The program is funded through a fee on monthly electricity bills.
Last year, the Purdue University group said the Energizing Indiana program would save 1,800 megawatts of peak energy demand by 2022, reducing the need for new power plants.
"Energizing Indiana has saved millions of dollars, created hundreds of jobs, reduced energy costs and made Indiana homes and businesses warmer and more efficient," said Jodi Perras, Indiana's representative for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
Coal is a major energy resource in Indiana, not just in terms of future supply but also in the state's heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants. Increasing energy efficiency not only means generating less power but also less air pollution.
Pence should get the energy industry and environmentalists together to draft a strategy that balances need for electricity generation with improving the environment and, thus, public health.
Conservation is a key way to do this. There's still plenty of room for improvement.