The 2022 session will seek solutions to many issues, including the need for electricity generation as the state transitions from coal-operated plants to renewable energy.

Though panelists for the Utilities Committee at the 2022 Legislative Conference didn’t mention climate change, the need for diversified and sustainable energy was apparent in the repeated emphasis on wind and solar energy growth in Indiana, which is stymied by local opposition.

As Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said Wednesday, “Either we’ll buy it or we’ll generate it” to meet the demands of Hoosiers and the state’s businesses. As electrical consumption increases, demand will overtake the amount of electricity generated.

“One of my concerns is that we hear from our state utility forecasting group from Purdue University that somewhere around 2024, 2025, our expected electric demand and our capacity crosses,” said Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Denver. “That’s why it’s so important for us to continue focusing on that reliability, resilience and investing in our grid.”

Two renewable energy options, wind and solar, both face opposition from local groups, said Soliday, chair of the House Utilities committee. Wind generation is only feasible in about one-third of Indiana’s 92 counties, many of which have banned wind entirely.

In the 2021 session, Soliday introduced a bill that would have allowed for statewide solar and wind siting standards, which opponents said overruled local control. Because of a certain group, Soliday said, that legislation wouldn’t be revived because lawmakers feared primary challengers.

“We have a group that travels the state … saying ‘no’ to renewables in Indiana,” Soliday said. “We’re in a primary year and this group is knocking on every door they can find and saying no renewables in the state. So I doubt we’re going to have a siting bill this year.”

Soliday never named the group opposing renewable energy developments across the state, but Hoosiers for Home Rule — now called Hoosiers for Reliable Energy — repeatedly challenged Soliday’s siting bill for renewable energy in the 2021 session.

Hoosiers for Reliable Energy argued that locals should control whether wind and solar farms operate in their communities, but Soliday argues that their opposition affects the whole state, because so few counties can feasibly generate electricity with these options.

That lack of renewable energy affects which businesses Indiana can attract, as corporate customers demand renewable energy.

“Our companies that want renewables … they have markets in Europe and so forth, and if they don’t have a renewable sticker on their product, they’re not going to sell it,” Soliday said. “We’re in an industrial state. We’re going to have to meet the needs of our customers.”

When it came to chargers for electric vehicles, which the state will receive millions of dollars for under the Build Back Better federal infrastructure bill, Soliday said details were thin.

Because of the lack of chargers across the state, about 80% to 85% of charging will have to occur at home, further increasing the need for more electricity.

“We have no idea what that plan will look like.”
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