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Task force recommends changes to utility rates, mostly ignores bill assistance and small solar

Rep. Ed Soliday (R- Valparaiso), co-chair of the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force.
Lauren Chapman
IPB News
Rep. Ed Soliday (R- Valparaiso), co-chair of the 21st Century Energy Policy Development Task Force.

A state energy task force adopted its recommendations for Indiana lawmakers on Wednesday.

Among other things, it encourages them to pass bills that reduce barriers to building power lines and other transmission projects, create programs to redevelop closed coal plants and mines, and expand the use of electric rates based on time-of-day — to lower the demand for energy and the need for new power plants.

The report also asks lawmakers to require the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to treat all energy sources similarly. Kay Pashos is a task force member and an energy utility lawyer with Ice Miller. She said Indiana has given out incentives for building coal, nuclear and renewables in the past.

“But gas kind of got left out of all that. This is my editorial opinion but, you know, going forward I think gas is going to be kind of critical in this transition," Pashos said.

But many key policy issues were left out of the recommendations. The task force didn't suggest how lawmakers should regulate rooftop solar, help pay for the cost of coal plants that retire early, create a statewide energy efficiency plan or create energy investment districts in lower-income communities and communities of color.

READ MORE: Energy task force says Indiana should ensure reliability, standardize laws for renewables

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Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington) voted against the report saying it “missed the mark."

“We as a task force should really be signaling to the General Assembly that the fire bell is ringing now on affordability of residential utility rates with what we’re going to face this winter," he said.

Task force co-chair Rep. Ed Soliday (R- Valparaiso) said the task force didn’t recommend a policy that would encourage community solar because advocates want significant incentives and such a bill wouldn’t get passed in the Indiana House.

The task force also made several findings — including that Indiana’s electric infrastructure should be made to withstand “catastrophic events” and natural disasters. Pierce suggested adding that natural disasters were "increasing in frequency and severity" — but that amendment was voted down.

According to a report by the World Meteorological Organization, weather-related disasters have increased five-fold in the past 50 years — partly due to climate change.

Sen. David Niezgodski (D-South Bend) and Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D-Evansville) were excused from Wednesday's meeting.

Contact reporter Rebecca Thiele at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.