Positive Aspects of SB 309 Overshadowed by Confusion Over Solar Energy Production

Three amendments were recently offered to SB 309 and approved during last week’s hearing – two by Rep. David Ober (R-Albion) and one by Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville). One amendment clarified who qualified as an applicant for a CPCN, one for the study of self-generation by schools and one changes the deadline of installation to receive the 30-year grandfathered rate to December 31, 2017.

The Indiana Chamber testified in support of the bill and tried to clarify some of the confusion over net metering (no one is trying to kill the solar industry). We also expressed some of the concerns that some members have over co-generation (that they would like more flexibility). We emphasized that we do not want the bill to fail because it is truly a compromise of long-standing issues that industrial users and businesses, as well as residential ratepayers, have had with Indiana’s investor-owned utilities. It will not fix all concerns our members have expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs and building a statewide energy plan. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s competitive edge when looking at energy costs that have risen over the past decade.

On March 22, the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee heard nearly a day of testimony on this bill in a full House chamber from many groups and individuals, both in support and against the bill. No vote will be taken until Wednesday.

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Bill to Change Net Metering for Those Investing in Wind and Solar Energy

The Senate Utilities Committee heard a full day of testimony on SB 309 on February 9 from both sides. No vote was taken and the bill will be heard again on February 16.

Most of the committee testimony was focused on net metering. Senator Hershman offered an amendment on the floor and Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) indicated he will be offering additional amendments to be considered at the next hearing. The Indiana Chamber gave testimony in support of the bill, including stating: the expectations for energy needs are diverse; our concerns about net metering if we do not make a step forward; the potential for rising costs through continued litigation; and the concern of numerous parties intervening in cases which will further slow down the process and increase costs to both utilities and ratepayers.

Overall, we testified the current bill is a step in the right direction and can be used as a building block going forward.

This bill is truly a compromise of long-standing issues that industrial users and businesses, as well as residential ratepayers, have had with Indiana’s investor-owned utilities. It will not fix all of the concerns our members expressed, but is a first step in helping businesses control costs. It has elements of competitive procurement, net metering, distributive generation and transparency of utility rates. It will serve as a building block of the Chamber’s efforts to maintain Indiana’s historical competitive edge, given the increase in energy costs over the past decade. With that said, we will need to consider all of the amendments before ultimately taking a final position on the bill.

Beyond the Bicentennial: Our Letter on Infrastructure, Energy and Telecommunications

The following is the third in our series of Beyond the Bicentennial letters, addressed to gubernatorial candidates. Read them all at www.indianachamber.com/letters.

Dear Mr. Gregg and Lt. Gov. Holcomb:

For Indiana to be the state we all want it to be – one that inspires business location and expansion, brings good-paying jobs to Hoosiers and allows for a high quality of life – a solid infrastructure framework must be in place that reflects both present conditions and is prepared for future developments.

The Superior Infrastructure economic driver in our Indiana Vision 2025 plan champions that belief, with goals regarding transportation, energy, water and telecommunications – all things sometimes taken for granted but inherently critical to running a business and enjoying the comforts of daily life.

Reliable roads and bridges doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for (especially for the Crossroads of America), yet it takes significant investment to keep them functioning, make enhancements and build anew. Frankly, our state has not done enough in recent years and has thus fallen behind.

In 2016, the state Legislature opted to provide short-term funding with a task force set up for the next phase. We all should know at this point – based on studies, reports and simply travelling across the state – that what Indiana desperately needs is a long-term, sustainable, strategic policy plan. One that lasts decades, not a few years or election cycles. And above all, it must be based on the principles that enough revenue is raised to completely fund both maintenance needs and important new projects, and that every user pays their fair share.

There are a number of strategies that should be on the table – any or all of which the Indiana Chamber could support:

  • Index fuel excise taxes/fees to inflation
  • Raise fuel excise taxes/fees
  • Charge fees for alternative-fuel vehicles (which aren’t subject to the regular fuel tax)
  • Tolling a major interstate
  • Dedicate all of the sales taxes on fuel to infrastructure (the current model allots a penny with the other six cents going to the state’s general fund), and replace the revenue lost to the general fund with another revenue source so that the general fund is left whole

But, realistically, how we get there matters far less than advancing to the point where we have a robust transportation fund. It’s time to finally address this in 2017 – hopefully in a bipartisan way – before it becomes a crisis.

For decades, many companies have located in Indiana because of its adequate, reliable and affordable supply of electricity. But now that coal – Indiana’s most plentiful energy source – has come under frequent attack by the Obama administration, affordability is starting to go out the window. And how long will it be before businesses and jobs go with it?

Unfortunately, Indiana is to some degree at the mercy of the incoming president and the Environmental Protection Agency. However, we can take additional proactive steps at the state level to combat their actions against coal.

One avenue is to focus on diversifying Indiana’s energy mix with an emphasis on clean coal, natural gas, nuclear power and renewables. Development and execution of a statewide energy plan (which does not currently exist) is essential.

Turning the attention to water, we need to finish the good work that stemmed from the Indiana Chamber’s 2014 water resources study and legislation carried by Sen. Ed Charbonneau and others to develop and implement a statewide water resources plan.

We must ensure that future water resources are available – our ability to effectively compete with other states depends on it. And we are approaching the point where research and data collection should soon transition to action. Leadership must be shown by the next Governor to help spearhead the process.

While the need for water has been obvious since the beginning of time, the advent of broadband and its economic significance is a much more recent development. It wasn’t that long ago that broadband was spoken about only in terms of faster and more reliable internet entertainment. But today, and in the future, its business, medical, security and quality of life impacts are paramount.

Legislation in 2015 that created the Broadband Ready Communities Development Center assists rural locales in working through the barriers they might have to broadband investment by a provider.

But not enough is happening and not quickly enough. We must find more ways to bring the most rural parts of Indiana up to date technologically to help reverse their downward population and economic trends.

That sentiment – being more aggressive – easily could be said for all of these infrastructure components. If elected Governor, we strongly encourage you to make that shift and put a greater priority on these vital issues.

Sincerely,

Kevin M. Brinegar
President and CEO
Indiana Chamber of Commerce, representing 24,000 members and investors statewide

Training: Turn Up the Heat in August

Business direction background with two people

Summer will be in full swing with a multitude of training opportunities to enhance employees’ expertise and protect your bottom line this August.

First up is the 2016 Indiana Tax Conference, one of the state’s largest, on August 11. Learn the latest in tax case law and legislation as highly-experienced speakers identify ways to help you stay in compliance and reduce tax liability.

Francina Dlouhy, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, will share her perspective on a crucial issue during her keynote luncheon presentation – It Was a Bad Idea Then and It Still Is Now! What Combined Filing Would Mean for Indiana. Among other themes are multistate tax hot topics for 2016, Affordable Care Act reporting compliance and an Indiana Department of Revenue update.

BKD, LLP is the presenting sponsor. Gold sponsors are MCM CPAs & Advisors and McGuire Sponsel. The silver sponsor is DMA – DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc.

Fuel business savings the following week by attending the 14th Annual Indiana Conference on Energy Management on August 17-18. Learn how to cut costs and maximize resources as energy experts from throughout the state share practical – and effective – compliance strategies.

Don’t miss engaging keynote presentations:

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (invited) – opening general session: August 17
  • Canadian Consul General Doug George – Energy Security and Supplies: the Canada-U.S. Relationship – general session: August 18
  • Kyle Rogers, The American Gas Association, and The Edison Electric Institute representative (invited) – Outlook on Natural Gas and Electric – closing luncheon: August 18

Additional highlights include panel discussions, customized training (choose from a variety of options) and an expo showcasing the products and services offered by businesses in your field. Explore topics such as distributed generation; reducing utility bills; using the government and tax code for energy efficiency; and energy bankruptcies.

The 14th Annual Conference on Energy Management will take place at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis-Downtown Union Station. Register online or call (800) 824-6885.

Gold sponsors: EDF Energy Services; Ice Miller LLP; MacAllister Power Systems; and Vectren. Silver sponsors: Cummins, Geronimo Energy, Indiana Electric Cooperatives, NIPSCO and Telamon Corporation.

Rounding out August offerings are:

Sponsorships are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876.

Chamber-Supported Clean Power Amicus Brief Filed in D.C.

36886821The Indiana Chamber joined 166 other state and local business associations from 40 different states in an amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. last Tuesday. Circuit explaining the devastating economic impact posed by the EPA’s carbon regulations.

The lawsuit, which will be considered by a federal appeals court this summer, involves EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” rules, which aim to reconfigure state electricity systems. It is expected to be a landmark case that could shape Indiana’s energy and economic
future.

In issuing these regulations, the EPA purports to have discovered the authority to regulate how states generate, transmit and use electricity, without any authority from Congress to do so.The coalition’s brief outlines major legal and economic concerns with the rule, arguing that EPA has trampled on the rights of states to determine their own energy mix and implement environmental standards in a manner tailed to their own circumstances.

The availability of affordable electricity is a key feature of keeping America competitive in a global economy.The brief explains that EPA’s challenged rule will pose significant harm to regional and local communities, particularly in economically challenged rural areas.

Affordable, reliable energy provides our members a critical advantage in today’s intensely competitive economy. If the courts uphold EPA’s rule, that advantage could be lost and American consumers will be left footing the bill, leading to adverse ripple effects throughout the economy, which will threaten individual businesses, countless jobs and entire communities.

By prematurely and unnecessarily forcing power plants to close, EPA’s regulation will result in higher costs for electricity and all the goods and services that depend on it, which means less money remaining for health care, food, education and other critical needs.

The Indiana Chamber’s brief echoes the call from nearly 160 challengers that have filed suit against EPA, including 27 states, and a host of business, labor and consumer groups.

A decision in the case is likely to be issued by the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit later this year. From there, the challenge is expected to make its way to the Supreme Court, which has ordered EPA to halt all implementation and enforcement actions on the rule until it has the opportunity to consider the case.

Little Steps Can Lead to Big Energy Savings

Business direction background with two people

This column was also posted on Inside INdiana Business.

Indiana possesses a number of advantages in its business climate. One of those traditional benefits has been energy that is adequate, reliable and affordable.

The inexpensive part of that equation has come into question lately. Industrial energy rates that were once among the five lowest in the country are now around the middle of the pack. Federal regulations – ones that often impact Indiana to a greater degree due to its dependence on coal – lead the way as a major cause for the increase.

All companies, not just heavy energy users, can more closely evaluate their usage and likely lower their costs. That subject is the theme of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Connect and Collaborate series – luncheons around the state this summer for Chamber members.

Here is some of the information being shared in the form of 10 energy-saving tips:

  1. Know your costs: Just as we hopefully do or should be doing at home, examine your electric power bill. You have to realize the source of your largest energy costs to be able to potentially have the opportunity to reduce those charges.
  2. Evaluate your contract: Is your current agreement the best deal you can get? You don’t know what’s possible until you ask.
  3. Lighting can be a hidden cost: Are you aware of what type of lights you use? Are they the most efficient? Are unnecessary lights turned off when not needed? Have you considered motion sensors?
  4. Air recycling: Heat rises, making it important to properly recycle your air. Have a professional examine your system. Efficient ceiling fans (or exhaust fans in warmer weather) could make a major difference.
  5. Avoiding the pressure: Steam and air pressure are common ingredients in many industries. Leaking joints, pipes and systems can be a huge energy drain.
  6. Water equals power: If you use water from a municipal treatment plant (or even your own facility), nearly 20% of that cost is energy. Examine your system to eliminate water leaks. You are paying for your water, as well as the energy it takes to process and move the water.
  7. Check the pumps: Workplace pumps are huge energy users. Assess your pumps – are they needed? Could they be changed out for a more efficient model? Would a variable speed pump make more sense?
  8. Transportation troubles: Another personal priority needs to be carried over to the workplace. Car/truck care in the form of proper tire pressure, tune-ups and other maintenance is essential. Companies with multiple vehicles are often well served by having someone responsible for the fleet.
  9. Proper planning: In addition to the modes of transportation, logistics are critical. Efficiently planning trips and scheduling deliveries will help conserve power and enhance productivity. This applies to organizations of all sizes.
  10. Compressing the fuel: Compressed natural gas continues to gain favor among many companies with heavy delivery schedules. An upfront capital outlay is often rewarded with a very timely return on that investment.

Chamber President Kevin Brinegar, I and a local business leader look forward to sharing this information and talking energy with members at each stop on our Connect and Collaborate tour. Your business could be the beneficiary.

Complimentary Chamber Series Features Energy-Saving Tips, Member Benefits

in chamberRising electric bills unfortunately appear on the horizon due to new federal regulations. To help prepare the Hoosier business community, the Indiana Chamber will highlight timely energy-saving tips at its complimentary 2015 Connect and Collaborate series.

“Ten Tips to Manage Your Organization’s Energy Costs” will feature Vince Griffin, vice president of energy and environmental policy at the Indiana Chamber. Griffin is one of the leading voices on all energy topics as a result of his 17-plus years at the Indiana Chamber and previous industry experience.

Griffin will be joined by Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar and a local business/community leader in each of the eight Connect and Collaborate stops throughout the state. They will share guidance that can be applied for organizations of all types. Each session will also include a moderated panel discussion featuring questions and comments from attendees.

What’s more, these events offer a free lunch and introduction for non-Indiana Chamber members about the organization’s benefits, as well as act as a reminder for existing members about how to take full advantage of the membership services.

“Connect and Collaborate luncheons are a great way to gain simple tools to improve your workplace,” remarks Brock Hesler, director of membership with the Indiana Chamber. “This will be an excellent opportunity to learn what others are doing and bring some new ideas back to your office or production floor.

“In addition to inviting all of our members, we encourage those not currently part of the Indiana Chamber to attend and learn more about the organization,” he says.

There is no cost for the luncheons, which take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. local time. The schedule kicks off in Indianapolis on May 11 and wraps up in Muncie on August 25. In between are stops in Fort Wayne (May 19), Lafayette (June 2), Merrillville (June 8), Elkhart (June 9), Evansville (July 28) and Bloomington (August 20).

Details and registration are available online or by contacting Nick Luchtefeld at NLuchtefeld@indianachamber.com or (317) 264-6898.

Organizations Earn IOED Grants for Energy Conservation Efforts

fThe Indiana Office of Energy Development (OED) recently announced seven grantees that will share almost $600,000 to help support their unique, Hoosier-based community energy conservation projects.

Recipients of the 2015 Community Conservation Challenge (CCC) grants are:

Bethany Christian Schools – $100,000
Bethany Christian Schools will utilize its CCC grant dollars to install solar panels on its school roof. It will also install a wind turbine, which will be accomplished through other partnerships the school has established. Bethany Christian Schools will incorporate energy projects and conservation considerations into its student curriculum and community events.

Center for Sustainable Living – $99,989
Five congregations of different faith traditions will install solar panels to reduce their energy costs. These congregations cover a large portion of the state and include the communities of Bloomington, Indianapolis, Jeffersonville, Merrillville and Gary. The Center will share this project’s successes and promote energy conservation with other congregations and faith traditions around the state.

City of Bloomington – $59,381
Five facilities in Bloomington and Ellettsville – including two schools, one park, a fire station and a parking garage – will receive LED lighting upgrades and motion sensors through the CCC grant. The City of Bloomington and Monroe County will reach out to residents through all forms of traditional and social media to teach them how to become more energy efficient.

Evansville Park Foundation – $100,000
The Park Foundation will use its CCC grant dollars to install off-grid, stand-alone solar powered LED lighting with battery backups at Jacobsville Park and the Pigeon Creek Greenway Passage. Neither of these locations has any form of lighting currently. These lights will not only be more energy efficient than traditional forms of lighting, but they will also help to extend park hours and provide enhanced public safety. The Parks Foundation will also reach out to residents about energy efficiency through this project. Vectren Corporation, the local electric utility, has selected this project for further study with the intent to develop an educational outreach plan for consumers.

Indiana Municipal Power Agency (IMPA) – $38,579
LED streetlights will be installed in Dublin (Wayne County) and Williamsport (Warren County) using CCC grant dollars. These LED lights will replace less efficient mercury vapor lamps. IMPA will share project successes and promote energy efficiency with its other 59 member communities and their customers.

Lake Shore Foods Corporation – $100,000
The Karwich and Franklin stores of Al’s Supermarkets in Michigan City will retrofit their lighting to LEDs. This energy efficiency project will be shared with their customers and local residents through “Al’s Good Neighbor Program” which promotes Food, Exercise and Sustainability.

Loftus Robinson – $100,000
Loftus Robinson will install a combined heat and power (CHP) project at The Switch, a mixed-used commercial facility in downtown Fishers. CHP is an integrated and highly efficient energy system that captures the “waste heat” produced by electricity generation. This waste heat is recycled and can be used for additional energy needs like heating or hot water. This system will also provide standby power for emergency lighting and elevator systems. The City of Fishers will partner with Loftus Robinson to educate the public on the project and its benefits for the community.

“We were very pleased with the response to this year’s CCC grant program,” said Tristan Vance, Director of the Indiana Office of Energy Development (OED) and Chief Energy Officer for the State. “This competitive grant program recognizes and encourages collaborative conservation efforts. Perhaps most importantly, the ability to incorporate an educational component into each community project helps tell important energy conservation stories in clear and tangible ways.”

An Energy/Environmental Issue Primer for the Start of Session

The 2015 legislative session began Tuesday and will adjourn no later than April 29. This “long session” will include the state’s $30 billion biennial budget and likely see more than 1,000 bills filed. Bill filing deadlines are January 13 and 14 for the House and Senate, respectively. You can count on the environmental and energy area to add its fair share of legislative ideas to the mix. In the environmental arena, we expect to see the following:

  • The Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s perennial laundry list of technical “clean-up” items
  • Rep. David Wolkins’ “No More Stringent Than” annual initiative
  • Something related to “brownfields” and clean-up efforts
  • Anti-harvesting of Indiana’s hardwoods
  • Above-ground storage tanks controls

In the “water resources” area, we expect to see the following:

  • Legislation to direct the Indiana Finance Authority to survey/examine the larger – and a few smaller – water supply utilities in the state
  • Establish an Indiana Water Resources Institute
  • Create incentives to promote water utilities to invest in infrastructure improvements

And it is likely that the electric power/energy area will really heat up (sorry) as multiple issues rise:

  • Legislation related to the Governor’s energy plan
  • Energy efficiency measures
  • Allowance to purchase electric power outside the current provider
  • Install a requirement that any new electric power generation be allowed competitive bids/procurement
  • Establish a rate case schedule for electric power utilities of XX (to be determined number of) years
  • Address the rural vs. municipal territorial/compensation dispute

Not all of these issues are ones that the Indiana Chamber will necessarily oppose or support – they will be part of the discussion but some may never get a hearing. This is like your friendly weather forecaster trying to tell you if it will rain, snow or be sunny in one month.