Sunstainable energy continues to pick up steam December 19, 2009Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
By Jesse Davis
THE GOSHEN NEWS
MIDDLEBURY, Ind — There may be momentum building, but we’re still at the back of the pack.
The monthly meeting of the Sustainable Business Resource Network became a mini-referendum on Indiana’s place in the growing push for clean, renewable energy. Held at Middlebury’s Home Energy LLC and featuring guest speaker David Eberhardt of the Citizen’s Action Coalition, the meeting even drew two local leaders — County Commissioner Mike Yoder and state Rep. Wes Culver.
Culver, who has been outspoken in his support of wind and solar energy and in pointing out the influence of the coal industry on the statehouse, said major change in Indiana’s energy policies will more than likely have to start at a grass roots level.
“I think it’s pretty much lip service when they talk about green jobs (in the statehouse),” Culver said. “They want coal plants. I don’t see it starting from the top down.”
Culver explained several bills have been started in the house regarding energy issues such as net metering, but have all been shot down in the Senate. At a speaking engagement in June honoring local companies that took steps toward energy conservation, Culver said Indiana allows consumers who generate their own energy to sell up to 100 kilowatt-hours back to the grid for retail credit, putting the state in a tie for lowest in the nation. He said the defeated bills suggested new limits of up to five megawatt-hours.
“It’s a really weak movement,” Culver said. “There’s not much strength in Indiana to get it done.”
Eberhardt shared state statistics gathered by the CAC during the meeting, mainly regarding coal, which he said makes up 96 percent of the state’s energy use, just behind national leader West Virginia. According to Eberhardt, another major issue is that the coal mined in the state can’t be burned here.
“Our coal is really dirty,” Eberhardt said. “We can’t burn it in Indiana, it has to be burned in plants grandfathered under the Clean Air Act.”
He said dirty coal is an issue throughout the Ohio River Valley, not just in Indiana.
Stepping back from the state level and getting into green efforts in Elkhart County, Yoder was optimistic.
Along with the entrance of Electric Motors Corp. and Energy-Inc., the front-runner in the county’s plan to generate fuel and energy from waste at the county landfill, Yoder said another announcement of a green technology company in the automotive field is scheduled for Tuesday. He said other companies are also looking at locating in the county.
“This last year, because we achieved such notoriety,” Yoder said, “a large percentage of the companies looking here are in the green energy field.”
He sees immense potential in particular from Energy-Inc. and the possibility of effectively eliminating a major portion of the county’s waste stream.
“If we can do that,” Yoder said, “I would challenge any town in Indiana to be as green as we are.” As discussion turned to energy efficiency on a household level, attendees shared a pragmatic if not unpopular view. They agreed that the biggest deterrent to change in people’s personal energy use habits was the availability of cheap energy.
SBN steering committee member Joel Barrett, an employee of WVPE public radio, said he tells people he would have no problem paying higher utility costs if more of the energy was coming from clean and renewable sources.
“They don’t understand why I’m okay with that,” Barrett said.
He said it was a symptom of a larger problem.
“Americans don’t tend to change,” Barrett said, “unless we’re forced to.”
Home Energy LLC in Middlebury is a Business Member of the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.