Benefits of Energizing Indiana will be hard to top
Illustration by Gregg Bender | The Journal Gazette
Who could be against energy conservation? Certainly not the Indiana General Assembly, or Gov. Mike Pence. Legislators who fought to terminate the highly successful Energizing Indiana program at the end of this year promised that this was just a “pause” to make the state's conservation efforts more effective.
Pence let that bill become law without his signature to signal that despite his concerns about Energizing Indiana, he was solidly behind the idea of helping Hoosiers make their electric power use more efficient.
But being for conservation isn't enough, especially when you're letting a program die that was getting results. Lawmakers who were willing to see the program die have so far been vague on how it will be replaced.
Last week, a legislative study committee heard the results of a study by the respected Energy Center of Wisconsin, which had helped the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission set up the ambitious energy conservation program that began in 2012.
The study confirmed that Energizing Indiana had been a success. The program offers energy audits and assistance for residences and businesses, helping homeowners weatherize, insulate and use lighting more efficiently, and encouraging commercial and industrial operations to upgrade to more-efficient equipment. The efforts have reduced electricity use by hundreds of millions of kilowatt-hours and saved individuals and companies millions of dollars.
According to the report, produced under the auspices of the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, every dollar invested in Energizing Indiana's efforts has produced more than $3 in benefits. The commercial and industrial efforts have been even more successful, yielding more than $5 worth of benefits for every dollar invested.
Those figures refer to the general benefits of energy conservation – separate from the immediate savings that residents or business operators may realize.
“If you reduce the amount of electricity that's used in your home, there's less demand on the system,” said Natalie Derrickson, communications manager for the IURC. If homes and businesses are reducing energy consumption, “there's less need for energy to be created.” Reducing the need for new production capacity helps hold down the price of energy as well as benefiting the environment.
According to the IURC, commercial and industrial customers alone saved 294,986 kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2012 directly because of Energizing Indiana programs. In 2013, that savings increased by 72 percent, to 508,178 kilowatt hours, Derrickson said.
Some on the legislative study commission did not seem impressed with the savings in money and energy.
State Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, who wrote the bill to kill the program, contends that the costs of Energizing Indiana would have continued to go up, but further benefits would have been harder and harder to achieve. Merritt said he wants to work with constituents, power companies and the administration to replace the program with something that's less costly and more helpful to all consumers, Brandon Smith of the Indiana Public Broadcasting System reported.
Merritt's approach sets a very high goal – to construct a successor to Energizing Indiana that works even better than this demonstrably successful program. Let's hope the effort proves serious and sincere.