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Indiana House OKs bill to end efficiency program

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 26, 2014 at 7:00 pm •  Published: February 26, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's 2-year-old statewide energy efficiency program that helps homeowners and businesses cut their energy use would come to end under a bill approved Wednesday by the Indiana House despite a lawmaker's warning that killing the program would eventually push electricity rates higher.

The House voted 69-26 to approve the bill, which now returns to the Senate for consideration.

The bill originally would have allowed industries that use 1 megawatt or more of electricity to pull out of the Energizing Indiana program, which is financed through a fee utility customers pay on their monthly electricity bills. But the House amended the legislation to add a measure that effectively would kill the program by prohibiting the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission from extending or entering into new contracts for the program after Dec. 31, 2014.

The amended bill also would prevent Indiana from requiring utilities to meet energy efficiency goals.

The bill's author, Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, said he's going to take the next few days to review the House's changes before determining whether to ask the Senate to approve it or send the bill to a conference committee to restore its original wording.

Merritt said that in authoring the bill he had studied the program's energy-saving benefits for industries but had not assessed its impact on residential and commercial power users. He said he'll research whether those two categories have benefited from Energizing Indiana's home assessments, low-income home weatherizations and other cost-cutting efforts.

"I'm curious when people say that this is a program that's not working altogether," Merritt said. "I'm going to do my due diligence before I say yea or nay. I'm going to study it and understand exactly what the commercial and residential programs are, and then make a decision."

The program's website says it's saved enough energy in the past two years to power nearly 78,000 Indiana homes.

Energizing Indiana began under Gov. Mitch Daniels through a December 2009 administrative order put into motion by the IURC in conjunction with the state's electric utilities and other entities. The program's goal is achieving a 2 percent annual savings in total electric sales by 2019.

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