Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb might have asked himself privately numerous times the same question he posed aloud recently to attendees of the United Nations 27th Climate Conference of the Parties (COP27) held in Egypt: “Am I in the right place?”

Egypt, an authoritarian country hoping to become a major natural gas exporter, hosted the conference amid allegations that it has imprisoned or driven into exile its critics including environmental activists. But human rights issues weren’t broached in Holcomb’s two speeches touting Indiana’s role in renewable green energy.

In his first speech, he referenced Indiana’s state ranking as fourth in clean energy capacity under development. That statistic is from a fourth-quarter 2021 report by the American Clean Power Association policy group which praised Indiana for projects in the pipeline. Holcomb, however, leaned into the fact that the state provides more than one-fourth of all steel produced in the U.S. and that Indiana still uses coal to produce energy “enabling our economy to grow and keep the home lights and refrigerators on.” Clean energy can do the same.

He referenced coming advances by Cleveland-Cliffs in replacing coal with natural gas as well as Cummins Inc. and Duke Energy for setting carbon goals.

Most of his citations involved private enterprise recognizing the future of clean energy.

He added, “And in regard to our infrastructure, broadly defined, it’s our state government mindset, because it’s the key to scaling up innovation and therefore solutions.”

The governor may have missed legislative discussion on Senate Bill 411 during the last regular session. When introduced, the bill set standards for wind projects, such as addressing height and shadows flickering on neighboring properties.

Originally, the bill would have provided $1 per megawatt in taxes as an incentive for governments to adopt wind power projects. On Feb. 21, State Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso), who sponsored the bill in the House, said the legislation was an attempt to compromise with Hoosiers who fought renewables — notably residents opposed to wind projects being installed at a neighbor’s farm.

No action was taken by the House Ways and Means Committee which could have advanced the bill. Instead, the next day, the $1 provision was axed because legislators couldn’t determine who would end up paying for infrastructure needs, whether it would be local communities or state government.

“We weren’t quite prepared for state government to do that,” Rep. Timothy Brown (R-Crawfordsville), chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said.

The Indiana General Assembly has shown it’s not as forward-thinking as Holcomb might tout in Egypt. While some previous state legislation has meant well for clean energy, utilities still rule.

In 2011, the Legislature passed a voluntary clean energy portfolio plan by which electric utilities could pledge that 10% of their electricity would come from clean energy by 2025. No one had signed up as of 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In the last session, the Hoosier Environmental Council had difficulty in urging passage of bills that would have created a climate task force in the General Assembly. Similarly, the Citizens Action Coalition lost its fight by mid-session for pro-solar bills including an extension on net metering availability.

Holcomb’s cheerleading in Egypt was a proper sales pitch to an international market. So yes, he was in the right place to talk clean energy.

But when, Hoosiers might ask, will the Indiana General Assembly end up in the right place?
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