UIndy students present bold vision for Indiana’s energy future

After a year of research, a group of 11 students from the University of Indianapolis and IUPUI have drafted a strategic plan for the future of energy in Indiana.

The group, led by former Indianapolis Mayor and Visiting Fellow Greg Ballard, held a series of forums in early 2017 to gather public feedback to incorporate into their proposal. The Indiana Advanced Energy Plan creates  an energy policy for Indiana that “strives for a safe, sustainable and economically secure future.”

Students from the University of Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University are working to answer the question of how Indiana's economy compares in the way of sustainable energy production. (Photo by D. Todd Moore)

Students from the University of Indianapolis and Indiana University-Purdue University are working to answer the question of how Indiana’s economy compares in the way of sustainable energy production. (Photo by D. Todd Moore)

The students were hired as interns on the project and brought a diverse mix of backgrounds to the discussion, with majors ranging from accounting to biology to art education. Ballard said the group bonded quickly as the students dedicated themselves to the project and understood its importance.

“I told them from the very beginning, this is not my plan. I wanted the state and government officials to understand this was the students’ plan,” Ballard said.

The Indiana Advanced Energy Plan will be shared with Indiana lawmakers to raise  awareness of how the state can continue its tradition of self-sufficiency by moving toward a more economically and environmentally sustainable energy model.

The plan considers the decreasing cost of renewable energy with its recommendation that Indiana adopt a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires the state to commit to a specified percentage of renewable energy sources. The students considered options for both rural and urban areas, including ideas like virtual net metering for municipalities, which is when solar energy is externally installed and shared among subscribers.

“This plan isn’t just for the City of Indianapolis. This is for the entire state,” said senior Carly Nicholson, an earth-space science major.

“We hope to see widespread, small-scale advanced energy projects that position rural communities as anchors for advanced energy in the state,” said junior Rowan Farrell, a biology major.

Several of the students talked about how the project sparked passion and commitment for a sustainable energy future. She noted how some of the students have chosen to pursue careers in climate science.

The students working on the project recognized their role in shaping Indiana’s energy future. “It’s going to be our generation that makes the push to transition the state so that it can have a healthy and secure future,” Farrell said. “It’s people speaking up about what they want, about what they envision for the future.”

The Indiana Advanced Energy Plan also makes recommendations for commercial and industrial sectors including lowering barriers for renewables in order to attract businesses that have sustainability goals. On the residential side, the plan encouraged  Homeowner Associations to loosen restrictions on solar panels.

Indiana Advanced Energy Plan – Download the PDF 

Written by Sara Galer, Senior Communications Specialist, University of Indianapolis. Contact newsdesk@UIndy.edu with your campus news.