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April 22, 2013

Coal Madness: Clean Energy Showcase Mobilizes Grassroots in Indianapolis

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Indianapolis families gathered for a "Clean Energy Showcase" at The Nature Conservancy earlier this month for a focused look into the city's energy future. The event, which included a NCAA March Madness theme, featured presentations and a breakout session that weighed the economic and public health benefits of clean energy and forecasted which types of energy investments might advance "to the next round."

The event was organized in light of Indianapolis Power & Light's proposal to raise rates to fund alterations to old, dirty coal plants instead of clean-energy investments. Nearly 70 Indianapolis residents attended the showcase with about half of the participants being new to the issue, said Indiana Beyond Coal Organizer Megan Anderson.

"This is a really exciting time where across the nation communities are moving away from their outdated and polluting coal plants and moving toward a clean energy future," she said.

If IPL gets its way, it could cost Indianapolis-area families over $511 million and would lock the city into a coal-dependent future with higher rates and expensive health costs due to pollution.

"Tonight's event showed the direction that Hoosiers want to take our city in. Indianapolis is the capital, and in a state where we tend to burn a lot of coal, we have a responsibility to set an example, move Indy beyond coal, and put our city on a path toward an affordable, sustainable energy future. IPL has a responsibility to this city. If we want a world-class city, we need to move toward clean energy," Anderson added.

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The Clean Energy Showcase took place at The Nature Conservancy's LEED platinum facility, which includes the use of geothermal energy. Ray Wilson, a Unitarian Universalist Church board member, and Tim Method, director of environmental and conservation programs at Indianapolis International Airport, presentedon solar projects happening at both locations.

The showcase was one part of a larger push to mobilize the grassroots and demand that city and utility leaders choose clean energy. IPL's power generation is nearly 99 percent fossil fuel -- primarily coal-based and a major source of climate-changing pollution and health ailments in Indiana. IPL's archaic business model has prompted the utility to raise monthly rates on customers by as much as 44 percent over the past decade, an increase driven by the costly coal industry.

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"We had a breakout session where groups brainstormed their own vision for Indy’s energy future that will be included in a city-wide petition which community leaders and groups from across Indy can add their signature on to urge IPL to move beyond coal," Anderson said. "This was a great way to show everyone what's at stake in terms of Indy's energy future, highlighting the incredible local clean-energy potential by showcasing a couple of clean energy projects already happening locally."

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-- Brian Foley

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