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Senate Committee Approves Energy Efficiency Program

Brandon Smith
Indiana Public Broadcasting

Legislation a Senate committee approved Thursday creates a new Indiana energy efficiency program to replace the one lawmakers eliminated last year.  But critics say the bill unfairly favors utilities over ratepayers.

Indiana’s previous program set energy efficiency goals utility companies were expected to meet.  Legislation proposed by Indianapolis Republican Senator Jim Merritt – and crafted by Governor Mike Pence’s office – allows utility companies to set their own savings goals.  The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission would then approve the utilities’ plans. 

The bill also allows utility companies to recover, without limits, what are called “lost revenues” – that is, helping them recoup what they spend on energy efficiency by raising rates on their consumers. 

Citizens Action Coalition executive director Kerwin Olson says he can’t find any other state that allows utilities to recover lost revenues without capping the amount.

“You are causing energy efficiency programs to be far more expensive than they otherwise need to be,” Olson said, “you’re stealing the economic benefit of those programs away from the customer to the utility.”

Merritt says the bill is far from a finished product and wants to get the governor’s feedback on capping lost revenue recovery.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.