Group of mayors ask state to help communities embrace renewable energy

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A group of mayors from across the state gathered in Indianapolis to call for more action, at the local and state levels, to help the environment.

They want more money from the state to help convince businesses and communities to embrace renewable energy, which can be quite expensive.

People packed into a room at the Garfield Park Art Center to talk about the environment. It was part of the second annual Climate Leadership Summit.

“We have a lot of people from the private sector, government sector, as far as what sort of world they’re going to pass on to the next generation,” said Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry.

Mayors and community activists shared what’s worked and what hasn’t to improve the environment.

“I think the mayors can inspire each other and the communities can inspire mayors,” said Jim Poyser, the executive director for Earth Charter Indiana, which put on the summit.

Mayor Henry said a lot of local governments are taking steps forward, but the state needs to offer more financial incentives to businesses and local governments.

Installing solar panels for example, can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Right now it all rests on access to capital and if you don’t have the money to do the conversions necessary, then we’re not going to be able to do it,” Mayor Henry said.

While environmental activists say the price for solar is falling, they say a new state law that takes effect in January will hurt further solar energy growth.

“What’s changing is you move from a situation that when you install solar, you benefit for 30 years in terms of your net metering benefit, and after December 31, 2017 it goes from 30 years to 15 years,” said Jesse Kharbanda, the executive director of Hoosier Environmental Council.

Kharbanda said areas in southern Indiana have many jobs at coal plants. When asked how he would react to concern from those communities about the future of those jobs, he said renewable energy can create jobs, as well and encouraged those communities to be ahead of the curve.