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Indiana lawmakers push voluntary renewable standards

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Indiana lawmakers are pushing a voluntary renewable electricity standard through the state Legislature, a departure from the national trend toward mandatory standards.

Senate Bill 251, which passed the Indiana House Utilities and Energy committee Friday, calls for a voluntary goal of producing 10 percent of the state's electricity from renewable energy resources by 2025, including everything from wind to solar to coal-bed methane. The state currently produces more than 95 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants.

If passed, the bill would make Indiana one of eight states with a voluntary standard, which Hoosier Environmental Council executive director Jesse Kharbanda said would hurt the state's chances of attracting investment in renewables because banks and other financiers would be more likely to commit to states with mandatory standards.

A 2008 study by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif., found that nearly 70 percent of renewable investment in the U.S. goes to states with mandatory standards.

"The bottom line is that a renewable energy investor is going to look at our state and not see a favorable investment climate," Kharbanda said.

The bill's author, Sen. Beverly Gard., R-Greenfield, called that a weak argument and said she has never had a bank come to the state to address that concern. Gard said it's not the state's business to pick winners and losers in the energy sector, and the state's renewables industry is already gaining attention without a standard.

"I think if you look at the facts of what we have in this state, it shows we are committed and people recognize it," Gard said. "And that is why we're getting all the renewables in this state that we are."

A recent study by the Washington, D.C.-based American Wind Energy Association ranked Indiana 11th in wind power capacity installations, with 1,036 megawatts generated from wind farms. But most of that power is being sold to neighboring states with renewable electricity standards in place, including Ohio and Illinois, which will require 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025. Texas, Iowa and California accounted for the top three wind energy producers in the AWEA report, each generating more than 2,000 megawatts through wind turbine installations.

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted mandatory renewable standards, and most have fared well so far. But AWEA's director of state campaigns, Brad Lystra, said Indiana's wind energy sector could keep growing despite the voluntary standard.

The fact that Indiana exceeded 1,000 megawatts of wind power without a renewable electricity standard, Lystra said, indicates that the state might not need an official standard to foster clean energy generation. Those states with a mandate needed a law on the books to provide incentives for clean and renewable energy production, or else a market might not have existed, he said.

"It's a unique position. I would say nine times out of 10, in most states, the wind industry puts a premium on the passage of a mandatory standard," Lystra said. "At this instance, we cannot ignore the fact that Indiana has developed over 1,000 megawatts in wind in the absence of any renewable energy portfolio."

Kharbanda said he doesn't think a voluntary standard is a bad thing but is disappointed lawmakers didn't examine more closely the potential economic impact of a mandatory standard.

"The more concentrated your (renewable energy) construction is, the more likely suppliers who serve the needs of those units will locate near them," Kharbanda said, comparing such economic growth to the relationship between manufacturers and suppliers in the American auto industry.

Lystra said a mandatory standard might be prudent for Indiana if clean and renewable energy projects begin to wane, which he expects to happen in the next few years.

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  • Jesse Kharbanda's physics problem
    I find it ironic that the leader of Indianaâ??s premier â??environmentalâ?? organization wants to destroy the environment in the name of saving it. Industrial wind is a disaster for birds, bats, landscapes, and the people who are forced to live among so-called â??wind farmsâ??. And what do we get for this humiliation of our environment? An Enron-esque industry that masquerades as humanityâ??s savior from climate change, while actually doing almost nothing to reduce emissions. New data from Denmark, the UK, Germany, Canada, the Pacific Northwest, and Texas all demonstrate the absurdity of trying to integrate an intermittent, highly variable, and inherently unreliable energy source into a modern power grid where supply and demand must be balanced to within an exquisitely close tolerance--or risk frying sensitive electronics and losing data (in other words, most devices or applications these days) from too much voltage, or causing brownouts or rolling blackouts from too low voltage. Oh, I forgotâ?¦the â??smart gridâ?? (techno-speak for â??energy rationingâ??) is going to solve all of this forâ?¦5-10 trillion dollars. Even the National Academy of Sciences indicates that, under the most wildly optimistic (spelled: sprawling and expensive) scenario, wind might reduce carbon emissions from the eastern grid by 3 percent (but more probably, less than 1.8 percent). Wind is a subprime energy source, the icon of the unfolding renewabubble.

    â??For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.â??
  • Joe don't know renewables.
    Joe complains about GOP not caring but doesnt understand that renewable energies not only don't work but actually create more pollution, such as wind and solar which are both intermittent.  They both are limited to whether uncontrollable factors (wind and sun) create power which we rush into a grid.  Coal power slows down, wind/sun introduced.  Wind/sun power slows coal plants ramp up.

    Anyone see a problem with this?  That's right, it's like driving in the city versus driving on the highway.  We all know, right Joe?, which method uses less energy and creates less waste.  And isn't that what's important?

    Now, onto companies.  Why should I be FORCED to use this sort of dirty, unreliable energy and watch my taxes and energy costs go up?  Wind and solar are at least twice as expensive, and with the economy as fouled up as it is, shouldn't we be worrying more about making sure Hoosiers can pay their bills, Joe, than by forcing dirty, expensive, unreliable agendas that only really take care of fraudulent 'green' companies?
  • the joke of the republicans
    It is growing more and more evident to anyone who listens that republicans care so little of the state and those they are supposed to represent. Renewable standards have been proven to improve economic performance, increase environmental productivity and reduce extremely harmful impacts to human health from coal burning plants. Instead, republicans must pay the maker and fund a coal lobby to protect .4% of the state GDP and about .1% of the states jobs. Why do we invest so much into coal? Because they invest so much into republicans. This bill is a waste of time. It is like marking a day to recognize other energy sectors exist, but don't actually look at them.

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