The road to renewable energy in Indiana could be longer

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INDIANAPOLIS – COVID-19 may delay Indiana’s efforts to switch from coal to renewable energy.

Thursday morning— the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission met with lawmakers and researchers to discuss an in-depth study conducted before the pandemic.

It revealed the social, tax, and economic impact coal plant shutdowns would have on local communities and the state.

“While it’s not a huge economic impact statewide, it is a huge impact on the communities that it affects,” said Indiana University Public Policy Senior Policy Analyst Jamie Palmer.

Palmer is part of the IU research team, but the project also included the Indiana Business Research Center and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Together they conducted more than six months of literature reviews, data analysis and stakeholder interviews.

State Sen. David Niezgodski serves on the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force. He said lawmakers will need to move with caution after learning the results of this study.

“This transition has to take place in a safe and affordable manner,” said Sen. Niezgodski. “There’s still going to be a lot more evaluation coming forward.”

There’s a lot to consider— even if people who lose their coal jobs find a new one. It’s going to have an impact on the economy.

“These are really high paying jobs and so one of the challenges is that you can get another job, but likely people are going to take a cut,” explained Palmer.

There are also state suppliers to factor into the equation.

“So, the plants buy goods and services from across the state sometimes and looking at what kind of businesses might be affected and where they might be affected,” said Palmer.

In a press release, the institute said, “The report estimates that the four closures will directly result in the loss of up to 652 jobs, $77.5 million in employee compensation, and about $354 million in economic output.  Additional ripple effects may cost 1,732 jobs, $98.4 million in employee compensation, and $184.7 million in economic output. By comparison, Indiana’s 2019 total economic output was $379.7 billion.”

Niezgodski said he’s concerned about how the pandemic and other large agenda items this session will allow lawmakers to have the proper time to debate such a complex topic in 2021.

“We have to make sure it’s not just a smooth transition but a reliable transition,” said Sen. Niezgodski.

The Energy Policy Development Task Force is scheduled to meet and discuss this again next week.

The full report can be found here.

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