By Adam Lee
The Senate Utilities Committee will consider a bill Thursday that could let power companies develop new energy efficiency plans and then charge customers more to implement them.
Senate Bill 412, authored by the committee’s chairman, Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis, is meant to replace the Energizing Indiana program, which the General Assembly canceled last year over objections made by 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 eliminates the requirement of a third party to develop an energy efficiency plan so that the company itself will create it.
Critics are worried about the changes. Jodi Perras, the Sierra Club’s Indiana campaign representative, calls the bill a “shady, last-minute move” that allows too much trust in the power companies. She said allowing the utilities to set their own energy efficiency goals could result in a regression in efficiency statewide.
Merritt said that although the utility companies would be creating their own plans, it will be the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission that has the final say on energy efficiency plans. He said the governing power lies with the IURC and that Hoosiers should have trust in it.
“If we’re worried about the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission’s ability to govern, we have more problems than energy efficiency,” Merritt said.
He also said that there will be “teeth in the law that ensures that all utilities follow their plans.”
Included in the legislation is a way for electric companies to make up for lost revenues caused by the more efficient use of electricity. However, Merritt said those details will have to be discussed during the committee meeting.
Adam Lee is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.