Another viewpoint: New state law offers incentives for solar, wind energy


Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Indiana poured 176.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in 2019, eighth highest among all states, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration – a disheartening statistic considering the societal costs and global instability resulting from human-caused climate change.

The federal agency said the Hoosier State generated just 10% of its electricity from renewable sources in 2021 and used four times more energy than was produced within the state that year. Improving those numbers begins with a focused approach.

State-level policies on wind and solar energy could help generate more electricity at a lower environmental cost in Indiana. A good start is Senate Enrolled Act 390, passed by the General Assembly in April and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb two weeks later.

Under SEA 390, a Commercial Solar and Wind Energy Ready Communities Development Center will be established within the Indiana Office of Energy Development. The center will provide easily accessible information on permits required for commercial solar- and wind-power projects and work with local permitting authorities on such developments.

The bill requires the new center to create and administer a program to certify counties and municipalities as solar- and wind-energy ready communities, as long as they adopt regulations that include standards not more restrictive than those established by Indiana law.

The most interesting part of the new legislation allows the Office of Energy Development to create a Commercial Solar and Wind Energy Ready Communities Incentive Fund, although no appropriation of money was passed under SEA 390. If the fund is established and there is a sufficient balance, the Office of Energy Development may authorize a county or municipality to receive from the fund $1 per megawatt hour of electricity generated by the project over a period of 10 years.

“It’s a good thing,” Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, told The Journal Gazette. “It puts in place a policy that is showing support for clean energy. It loops in the Office of Energy Development, and opens the door for some incentives for those communities to get in the game.

“I don’t know how much opportunity there is to capture federal funding for that type of program, but at least the Office of Energy Development is on notice to get something going in that regard and keep its eye out for those possible dollars that may be out there.”

Rep. Carey Hamilton, D-Indianapolis, co-sponsored SEA 390 in the Indiana House. She said it’s an answer to the groundswell of concern about renewable energy projects in recent years that has led 30 of the state’s 92 counties to pass ordinances banning or restricting solar and wind arrays within their boundaries.

“Moving forward, this is one way to help those communities to maybe rethink decisions they made, in particular, because there is potentially an incentive,” she said.

Moving forward, the new legislation looks to better define siting for future renewable Indiana energy projects, and make them a bit easier to accomplish.

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