Indiana has the potential to be a sustainable energy leader in the U.S. — creating jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, while reducing our state’s significant carbon footprint.
We’ve experienced significant progress on both fronts. Indiana has nearly 86,215 jobs in clean energy (Clean Energy Trust, 2022). A new report from the group WorkingNation, forecasts that the demand for green jobs in Indiana will increase nearly 30% over the next five years. Indiana’s dependency on coal for its electricity — the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. — has gone down from 77.7% to 47.3% in just nine years (IURC, 2021).
In the spring of 2022, rooftop solar saw a victory thanks to HB 1196. Homeowners can now petition their HOA to install rooftop solar as long as they meet certain requirements.
That said, Indiana trails fellow Industrial Midwest states on a variety of sustainable energy public policies and has ranked #1 in the Midwest and #8 in the U.S. in terms of energy related carbon emissions per capita (EIA, 2022).
HEC supports, and actively advocates for, public policies that facilitate investment in utility-scale renewable energy, customer-owned renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Dedicated public policy in these areas, with an eye towards stabilizing and reducing energy bills for Hoosiers, would enable Indiana to be a better magnet for clean energy jobs and improve our state’s public health standing as well. In 2022, HEC urged the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force to provide serious consideration of battery storage, demand response practices, and distributed energy as a benefit to grid reliability.
Indiana must make replacing dirty coal-fired electric plants with conservation, energy efficiency, customer-owned solar energy, utility-scale renewable energy, and utility-scale battery power a top priority, as is occurring at a fast clip in Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio.
What is Community Solar?
Community solar allows individuals to be part of a solar purchasing program within their community. Community solar is also made for people who cannot install rooftop solar due to upfront costs, location, or rental status. It uses unused spaces, such as community buildings, brownfields, and warehouses. Then the project distributes the power to the surrounding community making the grid more resilient and reliable. Typically, community solar customers receive a credit on their electric bill for the energy their portion of the solar project produces. Since community solar is privately funded, it allows Hoosiers to choose their energy source while bringing more economic growth opportunities to Indiana. Unfortunately, Indiana does not currently allow 3rd party community solar even though 1/3 of states have policies allowing it.
Grid Reliability and Resiliency
Distributed generation (DG), such as community and rooftop solar, only adds capacity to our electrical grid and acts as an additional resource during surges and outages. According to the EPA, it also eliminates “line loss” during energy transmission and distribution by traveling shorter distances. DG matched with ample battery storage makes sure our lights stay on despite uncontrollable circumstances.
Fossil fuel resources may have a reputation for being more reliable than variable sources like solar and wind, but the record is full of many instances of reliability problems with baseload generation, as seen in the problems that occurred in Texas in the winter of 2021. Data from Europe indicates that countries with strong penetration of renewable energy also experience great reliability for their systems with heavy reliance on renewables. For example, Germany gets nearly half of its electricity from renewables. It also has one of the most reliable grids in Europe–based on a standard outage index –with an average system outage duration .25 hours, compared to the U.S. outage rate of 1.28 hours. (Yale Environment360) Excerpt from Tim Maloney’s Testimony to 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force
Zero Carbon Emissions Energy
A third policy front where we seek to accelerate the transition from our historic fossil fuel addiction to zero carbon emissions energy lies in influencing the policies of individual investor-owned utilities with respect to their power plants. Utilities sometimes choose the option of retrofitting already old coal plants instead of shutting them and replacing them with much cleaner sources of electricity. Through a combination of research, education, and grassroots organizing, HEC was involved in a very focused way in a successful campaign that led a major utility company to retire their coal plant and replace it with natural gas; while gas is quite problematic in terms of the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing to groundwater, gas has a carbon footprint that is nearly half of coal’s (EIA, 2017). HEC occasionally weighs in on environmental cases (as an intervenor) as well as rate cases (as a commenter) before the Utility Regulatory Commission.