INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Environmental and citizens groups are warning that a bill advancing in the Indiana Legislature threatens to undermine a 2-year-old energy-efficiency program that's seen successes in helping homeowners and businesses cut their energy use.
The bill passed the state Senate on a 37-11 vote Monday and headed to the House for consideration. The measure would allow Indiana industries that use one megawatt or more of electricity to pull out of Energizing Indiana, a program they currently help finance through a fee on their monthly electricity bills.
The Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Hoosier Environmental Council and other groups are urging the Indiana House to reject the legislation. The groups warn that if lawmakers approve the bill it would likely shift the program's costs onto small businesses and families and threaten the roughly 400 jobs it's helped create in the past two years.
Jodi Perras, director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in Indiana, said an independent auditor found Energizing Indiana's commercial and industrial program was saving $3.19 for every $1 spent. If large industrial users are allowed to opt out, she said, the program's administrative expenses and low-income weatherization efforts would suffer, "leaving the rest of us to pay the bills."
"All ratepayers — including industries — must do their fair share to support the cost savings of energy efficiency programs," Perras said in a statement.
Energizing Indiana began under Gov. Mitch Daniels through a December 2009 administrative order put into motion by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission in conjunction with the state's electric utilities and other entities. Since 2012, it has saved enough energy to power nearly 74,000 Indiana homes, according to the program's website.
Residential, commercial and industrial users are currently charged a fee on their electricity bills to finance the program's energy-efficiency home assessments, low-income home weatherizations, energy-efficiency lighting discounts, and other measures that can lower overall energy use.