State Sen. Jim Merritt has suggested that we need an “all of the above” approach to our electric generation to keep costs down and the lights on. Yet in his recent Viewpoint [“State needs multiple power sources to avoid blackouts,” Oct. 30], Merritt only focuses on one part of the equation—utilities—while leaving customers out of the conversation. The same has been true for the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force tasked with charting our state’s energy future.
Indiana’s energy system is already transforming. The amount of electricity generated from coal has fallen from more than 90% a decade ago to 59% in 2019. Much of that transition has come from new fossil gas generation. But over the next several years, many of our state’s electric utilities plan to make significant investments in solar, wind and battery storage.
Thousands of ordinary Hoosiers have invested in distributed-energy resources like customer-owned rooftop solar and battery storage. Survey data from Indiana University shows that a majority of Hoosiers want to add solar to their home.
Sen. Merritt points to California as an example of a state that is too reliant on intermittent sources of electric generation, like wind and solar. What he didn’t mention is that California’s highly publicized rolling blackouts earlier this year were in part caused by an unexpected ramp down in generation from gas plants on their grid.
While several factors—including an unprecedented heat wave driven by climate change—contributed to the blackouts, studies have shown that the issue could have been avoided had the state’s electric system allowed for the integration of available customer-owned resources to alleviate pressure on the grid.
Unfortunately, both Merritt and the Energy Task Force seem unwilling to consider the potential of distributed energy resources to help produce a modern electric grid. Instead, they seem rooted in the same 20th century ideas that put the interests of utility shareholders ahead of the interests of hard-working Hoosiers. Our state should embrace more energy options, including ways for customers to generate their own power.