Groups Speak Out Over Cuts to Energy Efficiency in Indiana

Posted On March 10, 2014

By Mary Kuhlman

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Diverse organizations are speaking out against cuts to Indiana’s energy efficiency program contained in Senate Bill 340, which would prevent the state from holding utilities to energy-savings goals and would end the Energizing Indiana program. While supporters of the legislation argue that the current program is too expensive, opponents say cuts would end the energy savings customers are seeing.

According to Marty Kushler, senior fellow at the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, in its first year, 2012, the program saved $80 million in utility system costs.

“If you do away with these programs it essentially means that all Indiana ratepayers will have to pay more for energy in the future, because they will have to obtain the electricity from much more expensive power plants rather than saving the electricity,” he declared.

Kushler said it’s also a matter of concern that the bill has been rushed through a short legislative session. Opponents of SB340 are asking leaders to further investigate the costs and benefits of the energy-efficiency programs before moving forward. The bill was approved by the House and is now at the state Senate.

JACO Environmental has been delivering energy-efficiency appliance recycling programs in Indiana since 2010, which director Sam Sirkin said have saved electricity customers almost $3 million a year. He said ending energy-efficiency programs would eliminate more than 1200 indirect jobs and more than $500 million of economic investment each year that the programs are not operating.

“These programs are used by contractors – HVAC contractors, insulation contractors, remodeling contractors – to augment the work that they do every day, so it kind of boosts their business,” Sirkin said.

Several companies representing some 10,000 manufacturing and efficiency jobs in Indiana recently wrote to the governor, asking him to reject SB340 in its current form.

Reverend T. Wyatt Watkins, pastor of First Baptist Church of Cumberland, is a board member of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, which is helping faith communities reduce energy use. He said the energy-efficiency programs are making a difference in people’s lives.

“People in their homes save energy, practice responsible stewardship, and (it) certainly makes it more possible for people who are in financial need to keep the lights on and to keep furnaces running.”

Groups opposing SB340 include Citizens Action Coalition, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana NAACP, Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance and the Sierra Club.