A House committee voted down a bill Thursday that would have required Indiana to generate 10 percent of its electricity from wind and other renewable sources by 2018 – a measure supporters said would attract new investment to the state.
The House Commerce, Energy and Utilities Committee defeated the bill on a 8-3 vote after its chairman, Rep. Dave Crooks, D-Washington, refused to consider amendments he said were concessions to the state’s electric utilities.
Crooks said those amendments included incentives for utilities to invest in so-called clean coal technology. Lawmakers have already provided ample incentives for the coal industry, Crooks said, adding that he wanted his bill to focus only on renewable energy.
“My desire was that if we’re going to debate a renewable energy bill in this state it needs to be a pure renewable bill. Ten percent was a very reasonable percentage over the next 10 years – many states are far above us,” he said.
“I didn’t want to dilute that further by throwing in these non-related items.”
Crooks said it’s still possible that a renewable energy proposal intended to bring wind, solar and biomass energy projects to the state could be revived in the House or Senate this session. However, he said that was not very likely.
He said a bill sponsored by Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Wheatfield, includes renewable energy provisions, along with clean-coal incentives and other proposals. Crooks said he does not favor that bill, which will come before his committee for consideration.
Supporters of Crooks’ bill had argued that it was time for Indiana to join the 26 other states that already have mandatory renewable energy standards.
They said it would diversify Indiana’s coal-dominated power industry and spark new investment and jobs.
Indiana obtains about 95 percent of its electric power from coal-fired power plants.
Jesse Kharbanda, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, said after Thursday’s vote that the bill had been “a golden opportunity” for Indiana to send a signal to out-of-state investors that the state was eager to attract renewable energy businesses.
“Sadly that welcome message was not sent, and that is a missed opportunity for our state’s environment and our economy,” he said in a statement.
During a hearing last week before Crooks’ committee, Ed Simcox, the president of the Indiana Energy Association, said Crooks’ bill was too ambitious for Indiana and that it would have cost the state’s utilities $5 billion to achieve the 10 percent renewable energy goal by 2018.
“The percentages are too great,” Simcox said at that meeting.
He also said his utility industry group believes a state mandate isn’t needed because companies are already pursuing renewable energy projects in Indiana without a mandate.
Simcox noted that the state’s first wind farm is being built in northwest Indiana’s Benton County and includes 87 1.5-megawatt wind turbines.
Kharbanda and other environmentalists have said that if Congress begins regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in the coming years, Indiana’s electric customers could face big rate increases to pay for pollution controls on the state’s power plants.
By Rick Callahan
25 January 2008
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