Let’s put our energy into becoming more efficient | IndyStar.com | The Indianapolis Star June 20, 2010Posted by Laura Arnold in Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC), Net Metering, Uncategorized.
Tags: Net Metering
In a time when money is tight and natural resources are precious, Hoosiers continue to waste significant amounts of both because energy conservation has gained so little traction in Indiana.
Take net metering, the process by which property owners who generate their own electricity through windmills, solar panels or other means receive credits for the excess energy they ship back to utilities. Indiana has one of the weakest net-metering standards in the nation, limiting homes and schools to only 10 kilowatts a month. By comparison, Kentucky has set a limit of 30 kilowatts, Illinois 40 kilowatts and Ohio has no specified limit.
And, unlike in most states, utilities in Indiana can exclude businesses, which potentially could generate considerable amounts of power, from net-metering programs.
Although both the Indiana House and Senate passed bills this year that would have strengthened net-metering requirements, the legislation died in conference committee.
Such setbacks are common in Indiana, which has been slow to embrace everything from energy-efficient buildings to mass transit. Environmental leaders use the word glacial to describe the state’s pace on conservation measures.
Yet, given their fiscal, environmental and even security benefits, steps that promote better energy efficiency should bridge most political and philosophical divides.
On the federal level, Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar has made conservation one of the pillars of his newly introduced energy legislation. Although some Democrats and environmental groups have criticized Lugar’s overall approach as too weak, they’ve applauded the energy-efficiency provisions of the bill. As a result, with Congress seemingly deadlocked over a comprehensive energy bill, Lugar’s plan has gained traction because he included elements both Democrats and Republicans can support.
That approach — find common ground and act on it — makes sense on the state and local levels as well.
In Indianapolis, common ground would mean finally building a functional bus system, expanding trails, adding bike lanes, and building and fixing sidewalks. The assumption that residents are forever wed to their cars has not been tested here because few people have a functional alternative to driving.
On the state level, it would mean giving Central Indiana leaders permission to stage a referendum on creation of a regional transit authority, the first step to establishing rail and bus lines that would connect the suburbs and the urban core.
And it would mean finally approving the net-metering legislation, which died in the Statehouse this year and last year, during the 2011 session.
Debates over how much and what types of coal to burn, where and whether to drill for oil, and how to set limits on greenhouse gases likely will continue unabated, all while vast amounts of energy are wasted unnecessarily.
The pursuit of greater energy efficiency won’t end those arguments, but it could move the nation, state and city closer to the goals of a cleaner environment and a healthier population.