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NAACP call for equitable investment in impacted communities

Before the 21st Century Indiana  Energy Taskforce–Aug. 26, 2019

President Barbara Bolling Williams, President of the Indiana State Conference of the NAACP and a National Board Member of the Environmental Climate Justice Committee, entered the House Chambers to witness the beginnings of her charge, to move impacted, disadvantaged, African Americans and other Frontline communities to the 21st Century with the hope of a Just Energy Future!

The Conference is over 100 years old and have 35 branches across the State that advocate for human and civil rights. The advocacy has been for energy justice for over 45 years with 3 objectives: Reduce Harmful Emissions, Particularly Greenhouse Gases, Advance Energy Efficiency and Clean Energy and Strengthen Community Resilience and Adaptability.

Denise Abdul-Rahman, serves as the environmental climate justice chair and her testimony provided a brief overview of Indiana’s current electric energy policy and regulatory environment.

In 2017, Indiana ranked second in coal consumption, after Texas. In 2018, fossil fuel made up 91.6 percent of net electricity generation. The coal generation has decreased by 30% over the decade and natural gas has increased fourfold.

In 2011, Indiana’s legislature created a voluntary (renewable) clean energy portfolio standard; however, as of 2018, no Indiana  utility had chosen to participate. If an electric utility elected to participate, they had to agree to acquire an average of 4% of the electricity they sold to customers from clean energy sources between 2013 and 2018. In 2019 the target increased to 7%, and in 2025 the target will rise to 10%. Among the eligible sources are wind, solar, coalbed methane, clean coal technology, nuclear energy, combined heat and power systems, and natural gas plants built after July 1, 2011.

Indiana utilities are required to offer net metering for customer-sited renewable generating facilities with less than 1 megawatt of capacity. Customers are compensated for any electricity they generate that is in excess of what they use. At the end of 2017, 49 megawatts of customer-sited capacity were connected under the net metering program. In 2017, the legislature increased the limit on a utility’s net metered connections from 1% to 1.5% of the utility’s peak summer load. The law reserves 40% of the 1.5% of capacity for residential customers and 15% of the 1.5% for organic biomass. There are no restrictions on the remainder. In 2017, the Indiana legislature also reduced the rate customers receive from utilities for their distributed (small-scale, customer-sited) generation. Compensation was switched from a system based on a higher retail rate for electricity to one linked to the lower wholesale power rate.”

In addition, the testimony leaned into environmental justice communities bearing the burden of coal and gas plants within a 30 mile radius, the recommendation for energy policy and real models like the “Greenzone” employed in Pennsylvania.

“Indiana possible shifts in electric generation portfolios that can favorably impact the reliability, system resilience, and affordability of electric utility service and — be inclusive and equitable.

New Albany, Michigan City, Wabash Valley, Harding Street, State Line, British Petroleum are all fossil fuel facilities currently or once located within a 30 mile radius of what  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines as environmental justice (EJ) communities/disadvantaged communities. The fossil fuels spew methane, nitrogen dioxide, lead, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and more. 2) The NAACP only considers solar, wind and geothermal as clean and renewable energy.

There are economic cost to the healthcare system, business days off from work, human lives are a cost asthma attacks, COPD, heart attacks, and the cost to remediate the environment, such as coal ash and our water quality. There are cost to the States ability to be competitive.

There are other costs to our energy system that we think about, such as energy as a human right and that everyone should have heat in the winter and cool air in our increasingly hot summers. 3) The NAACP Lights Out in the Cold Report provides more detail regarding shut off policies and affordability programs, such as inclusive on bill financing.

Prior to SEA 412, NAACP noted Indiana energy efficiency resource standard as model policy that either met or exceeded our standard with the exception of making it mandatory as opposed to voluntary.

Many impacted communities are living in old housing stock and are in dire need of access to weatherization and energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy and at some point electrical vehicle charging stations, as a means to bridge the Green divide. 4) The Green divide, is a divide where large utility scale solar or wind farms, does not address the lack of renewable investments and benefits in local communities that need it the most.  Environmental justice communities experience a “green divide” renewable energy is being developed, but the green energy is being built away from communities that need it most, leaving these communities again neglected and without the benefits of renewable energy including local jobs.

The net metering in needs to be more accessible and affordable for all, especially for impacted communities SEA 309 is making affordability an even greater barrier.

NAACP Just Energy Policies calls for Mandatory renewable portfolio standard, with a target of 25% clean energy by 2025

Mandatory energy efficiency standards that require a minimum 2% annual reduction on energy sales each year

Have a mandatory net metering policy that allows for solar panel systems up to 2000 Kilowatts

Have mandatory legislation that gives minority and women owned businesses equitable access to green jobs and clean energy opportunities

Have mandatory legislation that allows communities to take advantage of solar energy (whether each individual has solar panels or not)

There are many models to consider to make energy more equitable. One only for example is a framework that creates healthy and thriving communities called “Green Zones” ( or energy investment districts). The Green zones provide a framework for equitable energy policies by infusing impacted communities with the financial and technical assistance needed for development of local renewable energy resources. Green zones host impacted communities most often low income communities and communities of color in which residents organize to reduce fossil fuel pollution and to cultivate new, coordinated opportunities to implement community based solutions.

While each green zone is a reflection of the specific needs, priorities and environmental justice issues of the community, it shares common roots. By identifying green zones-communities that need to transition from fossil fuel  pollution into healthy neighborhoods -can advocate for policies that direct a whole range of resources into programs in those communities. There are five aspects of the green zones/Energy Investment Districts.

Identify overburdened and impacted communities

Prioritize identified communities for public investment

Advancing on the ground models

Provide resources and assistance to impacted communities

Establishing Community governance  and democractic decision making processes

Our members are from all across the State. We’ve held detailed conversations about the Energy Taskforce and they have expressed interest in learning more from their legislators about the Energy Taskforce and afix their branches to this testimony.

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