• Steve Eberly

The Common Sense of Renewables and the County Commissioners Conference

I was pleased to attend the Indiana County Commissioners Conference in early December. Over seventy-five of Indiana’s ninety-two counties sent representatives.

Having attended about a dozen of these conferences during my tenure as a Warren County Commissioner, I was always taken by the level of enthusiasm demonstrated by this group. As one might expect, there are always common themes of discussion.

Jail costs, road costs, cyber security were topics this year as they are most years. The discussion about renewables covered zoning and ordinance language, with interest driven by the fact that many counties and landowners are receiving calls regarding solar energy projects. The conference even featured a breakout session on the fundamentals of maximizing value from renewables projects.

I attended the session and not surprisingly, it was standing room only. I heard discussions about dealing with abatements, zoning fees, and county level philosophies regarding allocation of wind revenues.

As county officials consider renewable energy, it’s critical to highlight the importance of long-term projections of what county costs and funding will look like over the long term – 10 years, 20 years, and beyond. Invariably, it seems that we look to the money we have, count on the ability to raise taxes and cost containment as a strategy to assure county prosperity. We don’t always quantify the impact of inflation, the cost of expanded or new county services, or equally concerning in our rural areas, maintaining our overall population.

County leaders are currently challenged to find ways to deliver economic vitality to their communities. I believe we can meet that challenge, by capitalizing on the local assets available in our diverse counties, and demonstrating the benefits that can be gained from them to our friends and neighbors. This a necessity if we are to assure prosperity and our Hoosier way of life.

The economic opportunity of renewable energy projects is undeniable, and they are a perfect fit for our Hoosier counties. Renewable energy provides economic benefits that we simply can’t afford to pass up. Just look at Benton County and their tax revenue “windfall.” It’s just common sense, and that’s why I am enthused to see our local leadership taking charge of the discussion, and it’s equally as exciting to see so much interest at the county meetings. I implore our leaders to keep learning the facts, and educate themselves and their constituents. Hoosiers for Renewables stands ready to be a resource in that process.