Indiana task force weighs green energy and affordability

Indiana Michigan Power's coal-fired power plant in Rockport is set to retire in 2028. (IBJ file photo)

As Indiana looks to form an energy policy of the future, not everyone is in agreement on how much of a role fossil fuels will play in that equation.

The debate has been playing out this month during meetings of the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force, a legislative study committee exploring the impact of the transition to clean energy on the state’s electric system. 

Originally formed in 2019 and reestablished in 2021, the panel made up of lawmakers, industry experts, attorneys and state government officials is tasked with identifying energy policy recommendations focused on affordability and reliability of future electric utility service.

Most companies looking to move to or expand in Indiana are interested in clean energy, said Mark Wasky, senior vice president of community affairs at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

“Many companies have indicated in their request for proposals that they expect a certain level–sometimes 100 percent of the energy consumed at an operation–to be generated from renewable sources,” Wasky said. “More importantly for Indiana, many of these [original equipment manufacturers] are pushing this expectation down through the supply chain, asking your suppliers to demand the same in an effort to help them achieve their energy sustainability goals.”

Just how much of that clean energy is available to them depends on a number of factors, and some renewable energy advocates say Indiana is lagging behind other states at the policy level.

While utility companies like CenterPoint Energy and NIPSCO are investing heavily in clean energy, state policy has yet to prioritize renewable fuel sources, according to Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, Indiana’s largest consumer and environmental advocacy organization.

“From a policy level, we’re at the bottom of the pack,” Olson said.

Rep. Ed Soliday, a Republican from northwest Indiana who chairs the panel as well as the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee, said companies may need to temper their expectations.

“There were folks that I’ve been involved with that would say, ‘I want 100 percent renewable,’ and I would say, ‘You can’t run your company on 100 percent renewable,’” Soliday said. “How do we encourage renewables without compromising affordability?”

Over the past two decades, energy costs have gone up across the country, and Indiana is no exception.

A recent CAC study found that the average residential electric bill in Indiana increased from $74 in 2000 to $155 in 2022, a 22 percent increase after adjusting for inflation.

Wasky said that cost increase can be attributed to a number of factors, including the transition to new energy sources.

“Overall, I think it’s something that every state across the country, depending on the type of power generation they utilize–those prices are increasing for everyone,” Wasky said. “All rates are going up.”

The task force will hold one more meeting at the Statehouse on Oct. 19 before submitting a final report to the Legislature by Nov. 1.

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4 thoughts on “Indiana task force weighs green energy and affordability

  1. Perhaps they should wait until next Spring to see how this all works out in Europe, and especially in Germany, over the Winter of 2022/23. That will give them a better idea of what happens you are totally dependent on “renewable sources”.

    1. Scott, there will always be something on the horizon that argues for a delay in taking action. But, as they old saying goes, “need is the mother of invention.” I have little doubt that Germany will invent a solution to meet their need for energy, hopefully one that produces less carbon emissions and particulate matter typically resulting from fossil fuels.

      In the U.S., not only is wind and solar increasingly claiming a larger share of the electricity-producing market, but hydrogen fuel generation is the next big bet as a green power source.

      In short, if coal and gas were clean energy sources, none of the above new technologies would exist. But because they are, the race to refine and invent new technologies will meet our needs sooner than you think.

    2. Amen to Brent’s comment. The US and Indiana cannot wait for “someone else” to try alternative energy sources. Take action or get left behind (increased pollution and decrease of prospering jobs).

  2. For a state that is courting businesses to move to Indiana, Representative Soliday is not very inviting. Almost sounds like he wants to send them next door to Illinois. With Indiana’s poor air quality, they may
    not want to move here with lack of state support for renewable energy, clean air and clean streams.

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