Every time a utility company wants to build a new power plant, the cry goes up from consumer advocates.
If you want to make the ratepayers pay for yet another power plant, they say, force the utility to accept energy efficiency programs as a condition.
The idea is simple. Create real energy savings, and you won’t need any more new power plants in the future. Ratepayers will save money on bills, and they won’t see their bills rise down the road, when the next $3.5 billion Edwardsport plant is floated to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
There’s just one problem, according to Kerwin Olson of the Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, and that’s the utilities themselves.
When energy demand wanes, the utilities see their sales drop. That’s not good for business.
Enter State Rep. Heath VanNatter, R-Kokomo, who managed to amend a bill last week in a way which would kill the state’s fledgling energy efficiency program, a program put together and implemented by Gov. Mitch Daniels’ administration.
VanNatter simply doesn’t believe claims that the program saves consumers $2 for every dollar it costs. He doesn’t believe that the program will curtail the need for additional power plants in the future. He says consumers are paying millions so that non-profit groups can get paid for referring people to the program.
All of those assertions — coupled with the shock passage of VanNatter’s amendment — have left CAC officials like Olson, who spent five years lobbying state regulators and the Daniels administration to implement the program, aghast and outraged.
“If you want to change the program, study it and make recommendations. Send it to committee, and take public comment. You don’t offer it as a second reading amendment, with no dialogue, no committee vote. It’s just astounding,” Olson said.