General Assembly passes bill to stop Energizing Indiana program

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INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that puts an end to the Energizing Indiana program passed the General Assembly Monday by a 37-8 vote. It’s now on the desk of Gov. Mike Pence. If signed, the Energizing Indiana program ends Dec. 31, 2014.

Republican State Senator Jim Merritt introduced the bill, citing concerns about the cost and benefit of the program, scheduled to continue through 2019.

Energizing Indiana was created by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

In two years, energy auditors have visited more than 200,000 homes, schools and businesses, finding ways to save money on energy bills.

According to a running tally on the Energizing Indiana website, savings so far could power more than 78,000 Indiana homes for one year.

“This program has saved two dollars for each one dollar saved so far, that is true, but it’s been achieved with low-hanging fruit, like light bulbs and wrapping of pipe to save energy,” said Merritt on the senate floor Monday afternoon.

According to Merritt, since 2009, the Energizing Indiana program has cost ratepayers $500 million, and will cost as much as $1.9 billion more by 2019. He said Energizing Indiana was created by administrative order without any input from the legislature.

The program is funded by monthly fees from users, which typically cost a couple of dollars for the average household.

That cost can be much higher for large electricity users like factories.

Merritt’s bill would have made those places exempt from the program. Then a House Republican changed it up, cutting the program altogether, and it passed Monday to the frustration of vocal opponents.

“I don’t believe any of the reasons they’ve actually given for getting rid of this program,” said Jodi Perras. “The real reason is because this program is working. It’s saving energy and it’s reducing the energy demand in our state and therefore the utilities are not making as much money. So if our meters are spinning slower, it’s less money for them . The real reason they’re trying to kill it is because it’s successful, it’s working, and that’s the problem.”

Jodi Perras is the Indiana representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign and is with the Hoosier Chapter of the Sierra Club. She said in a state not necessarily known for being green, this just makes it worse.

“This is something that is really detrimental to our state,” said Perras. “It’s going to take away a program that’s very popular that’s helping people save money on their electricity bills, helping families stay warmer in the winter and helping businesses reduce their energy bills as well.”

Perras is also worried about job losses, citing 400 jobs plus 1200 indirect jobs, such as workers hired to haul away homeowner’s old appliances after using the rebate program to get an energy efficient appliance.

We have a lot of businesses that are involved in the energy efficiency economy now and hundreds of jobs that will go away if this program ends,” said Perras. “Jobs that are good right here, jobs that are hiring veterans and out of work people to help make our state more efficient.”

Merritt said, “We still have energy efficiency programs that will continue. That means jobs will continue to exist. Perhaps they will be with a different company, but they will exist.”

“I strongly support energy efficiency. This legislation simply pauses an extremely expensive program which may not generate benefits,” he said.

Merritt says the program could eventually be revived.

The bill requires the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to analyze its costs and benefits. The IURC would issue a report to the General Assembly by August 15, 2014.
The governor has 14 days to sign the bill into law or veto it.
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