Senate panel passes energy-efficiency utility bill
Businessweek, January 22, 2015
Major utility companies would be able to develop their own energy-efficiency programs and charge customers to implement them under a bill that cleared a state Senate committee Thursday, but the panel’s chairman said the bill still needs a lot of work.
The Senate Utilities Committee voted 7-3 to approve a bill that would reduce statewide oversight of major utility companies’ energy-efficiency programs.
Republican Gov. Mike Pence backed the bill as a replacement for Energizing Indiana, a statewide program that provided utility consumers with free in-home energy audits and other services.
Last year, the Republican-controlled Legislature eliminated the program despite evidence of its success, after large industrial and commercial customers complained that the program provided them with few benefits and was too costly.
“Energizing Indiana was good in the beginning,” said committee chairman Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, but it had the chance to “double the cost to ratepayers.”
Supporters and opponents of the bill agreed that decreasing electricity usage leads to lower energy bills for customers and less reliance on expensive power plants. Both said that Indiana also needs to prepare for the new federal requirements for cutting carbon emissions, but the issue was how to make that happen.