Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

March 5, 2014

March 5, 2014: Letters to the editor

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Senate bill is harmful to God’s creation

The Indiana House of Representatives amended Senate Bill 340 last week to obliterate a statewide energy efficiency program, known as Energizing Indiana. Still in its infancy, this successful program has already created hundreds of jobs and saved enough energy to power all the homes and apartments in Howard County for two years.

Energy efficiency reduces electricity use and helps avoid the need to build costly new power plants. Thousands of Hoosier households and businesses have participated in energy audits, energy efficiency rebates and weatherization projects. For example, Purdue University received an $81,000 rebate check for its new energy efficient chiller, which has reduced operating costs on Purdue’s West Lafayette campus.

Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light (H-IPL) opposes SB 340 out of a concern for good stewardship of the Earth and its finite resources. Caring for creation is one of the highest spiritual and moral imperatives we have from our Creator, and one that our many faith traditions have in common.

As people of faith, H-IPL believes that SB 340 is unjust, and that it does not show respect for the people or the land given us by God.

Energizing Indiana is conserving our God-given natural resources; reducing electricity bills in schools, churches and homes; and helping the poor weatherize their homes.

For every dollar spent on the statewide energy efficiency program, utilities are saving at least two dollars in energy costs — cost savings that are passed on to ratepayers, both rich and poor. SB 340 would outlaw the energy efficiency goals set by the Daniels administration in 2009, savings goals similar to those that are reducing electricity costs in Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.

Electric utilities could still run their own energy efficiency programs if they wish. However, SB 340 would set us back to 2008, when Indiana’s fragmented and uncoordinated efficiency programs were ineffective at achieving significant energy savings.

Even more troubling is the lack of significant public discussion and debate on such a swift change in state policy. The bill requires the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to study the costs and benefits of energy efficiency, yet it seems the study’s outcomes are already decided by SB 340’s rush to judgment.

My personal faith inspiration comes from St. Francis of Assisi, who showed his love for all creation and for all people, especially the poor who can’t escape the degradation of the earth the way richer people can. I also take inspiration from Pope Francis, who in January 2014 said, “I recall a popular saying: ‘God always forgives; we sometimes forgive; but when nature — creation — is mistreated, she never forgives!’”

One of the most conservative ways we can operate is to audit our use of energy, and to encourage energy audits as a matter of state policy. It is amazing how a simple audit helps a family reduce its consumption and save money, which can be redirected to other things they value in life.

Let us remember that we are all in this together. Energy efficiency must play an important role in Indiana’s energy plans, for the sake of all Hoosiers and God’s good creation.

Jack Hill

Hoosier Interfaith

Power & Light