Environment “Clean energy” bill tips scale for utilities, against Hoosier consumers

“Clean energy” bill tips scale for utilities, against Hoosier consumers

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Letter to the Editor/ Opinion-Editorial

By Indiana State Senator Jean D. Breaux (D-Indianapolis), State Senator Lonnie M. Randolph (D-East Chicago), and State Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage)
Word Count: 390

A few of our Republican colleagues in the Indiana State Senate recently described an energy bill now before the General Assembly as a “balance among competing interests.” The truth is that the bill garnered near universal opposition from stakeholder groups who testified in the Senate Committee on Utilities and Technology– industrial energy users who collectively employ tens of thousands of Hoosiers, an array of clean energy entrepreneurs, and the AARP, to name a few.

Senate Bill 251 does not represent a balanced approach nor does it serve the interests of Hoosier consumers, and that’s why we are opposed to the bill in its current form. The bill places no ceiling on consumer electricity rate increases to pay for the construction of new, multi-billion dollar power plants. Instead, it puts consumers on the hook for more risky power plant investments, like Duke Energy’s controversial new plant in Southwest Indiana, with too little oversight by state regulators. Construction costs for that plant have ballooned from initial estimates of $1.3 billion to $2.88 billion.

In the backdrop of the Duke Energy Edwardsport scandal, this bill also astonishingly reduces oversight of investor-owned electrical utilities by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. This change nearly mutes the commission in their designated role as overseers of utility rates in the state and aggravates concerns about the lack of public transparency in utility dealings and rate increases.

Further, this bill creates an unwelcoming investment climate for clean energy entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs have testified about the need for a “Renewable Electricity Standard,” which would create market certainty for renewable energy technologies like wind power. Indiana is one of only 14 states without such a standard. Entrepreneurs have testified that, without this standard, they’ll stop investing in the state – and stop creating needed jobs. In the last four years, wind companies alone invested $2.5 billion in rural Indiana.

Senate Bill 251 is not a consensus bill. Constructive solutions are being offered that we hope will gain support in the weeks ahead. However, we believe that the most responsible action is for the Indiana legislature to hit the reset button on this far-reaching measure and develop an energy bill that genuinely takes into account the interests of Hoosier families and businesses, fosters entrepreneurship and job growth in renewable energy industries and moves Indiana’s energy independence forward with more renewable energy production.

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State Senator Jean Breaux, Indianapolis, is a member of the Senate Utility and Technology Committee and Senate Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee. State Senator Lonnie Randolph, East Chicago, is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Utility and Technology Committee and is a member of the Senate Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee. State Senator Karen Tallian, Portage, is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Energy and Environmental Affairs Committee. For more information on these state legislators or other State Senate business visit www.SenateDemocrats.IN.gov.