STATEHOUSE — A panel of lawmakers and experts gathered in the House chamber of the Indiana Statehouse on Wednesday to discuss the future of Indiana’s utilities.
With regard to what has taken place in California and other states when it comes to a rapid transition to renewable and alternative energy sources, state lawmakers are hoping to gather information on how Indiana should proceed without having too much of an impact on Hoosiers’ daily lives.
The panel came up with a list of recommendations for state lawmakers to consider in the upcoming legislative session to address accommodating new energy sources.
“I think many of (the recommendations) have to do with reliability,” said State Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) to WISH-TV. “What we saw in California, what we’re seeing in Europe where we moved rapidly into renewables and then not have adequate backup.”
Rolling blackouts were a problem in California during the hot summer months with many people running air conditioning and other appliances that use lots of electricity. Some of the problems stemmed from there not being enough sources of renewable energy with the state cracking down on fossil fuels.
Soliday also said many of the recommendations had to do with safety regulations for setting up certain new energy sources like large battery storage.
“We’ve had some significant fires in these large batteries (before),” he said. “With lithium as the basis, I don’t think we want that very close to a school or a refinery or something like that.”
The recommendations also include expanding the use of time-varying price structures, which would allow utilities to change their prices at different times during the day in response to demand. Environmental advocates claim such pricing leads to lower overall consumer prices and reduces emissions.
Two Democrats on the panel voted against the recommendations, not so much because of what was in the bills, but what wasn’t. Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington. Among other things, Pierce wanted to recommend state funding for utility assistance programs, especially with some low-income Hoosiers likely to struggle to pay utility bills this winter since the price of energy is up.