Jesse Kharbanda is the Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana’s leading environmental educator and advocate.
In this world of intense global competition, where does Indiana’s industrial future lie? Logistics, biosciences, and clean car technologies have been some of the areas that we’ve seen Indiana industry focus on. Indiana, in our view, has yet to tap into another sector – clean electricity component manufacturing, which produces the goods that make wind turbines briskly spin, solar panels soak in the sun, and air conditioning systems be energy hogs no longer. Indiana is surprisingly well positioned to lead in this sector: According to the Renewable Energy Policy Project, a DC-based think tank, Indiana has the second highest potential in the country to produce such goods.There’s no doubt some such companies, like Brevini Wind near Muncie, are locating to Indiana due to our business-friendly environment as it is.
But how might Indiana fully realize this potential, and actually become the second highest job generator of clean electricity jobs? Ask venture capitalists and commercial clean electricity developers, and they’ll tell you pointedly that Indiana needs a dedicated renewable energy policy: a Renewable Electricity Standard (RES), and a robust net metering program. Unfortunately, we’re the only state in the Midwest without the former, and we have the weakest net metering policy in our region. Policies like an RES and strong net metering have a triple dividend: they make Indiana a more hospitable climate for clean electricity manufacturing jobs, they move our electricity sector towards energy sources that are better for our health and environment, and they hedge against regulatory or economic-induced fossil fuel price shocks.
An organization like HEC and a trade group like the Indiana Chamber may not be in complete alignment on the right policy solution, but for the sake of jobs and improved environmental quality, let’s a find a way to work together to make sure that Indiana is a leader in this sector, a sector that will mushroom in the decades to come. HEC’s hand is extended.