Energy-efficiency bill headed to Pence for signature

The Indiana Senate sent a bill to the governor Tuesday that would change the energy-efficiency landscape in the state.

Senate Bill 412, authored by Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, is meant to replace the Energizing Indiana program, which the General Assembly canceled last year over the objections of environmental groups.

Energizing Indiana imposed a fee on the electric bills of all Hoosier households and businesses to pay for conservation efforts that included weatherization and other programs. Critics – including Merritt – said the program had become too expensive to administer.

The new proposal gives companies the authority to create and submit at least one energy-efficiency plan to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission every three years. The bill also allows for large energy customers to opt out of the energy-efficiency plan.

Merritt said changes passed by the House give the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission “more teeth” in the process by allowing them to determine whether a plan is reasonable. Previously, the bill had the commission assess if the proposed plan stacked up against the utility’s consumption in the previous year and could be continued for following years.

Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, said the bill still was a move in the wrong direction. Breaux said that eliminating statewide goals and allowing large customers to opt out is a step back from the previous Energizing Indiana program.

The Senate passed the bill 38-10 and it moves to Gov. Mike Pence, who is expected to sign it into law.

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