The Indiana House Commerce, Energy, Technology and Utilities Committee today advanced legislation that was developed in collaboration between a group of DePauw University students and State Rep. Nancy Michael (D-Greencastle) that would enable school corporations to slash their long term energy costs.
House Bill 1669, which is Michael's first bill to pass a committee, would establish a state fund to assist schools in installing geothermal heating and cooling systems. Geothermal systems make use of the earth's natural energy as a means to heat and cool buildings.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, geothermal systems are capable of using up to 30 percent less energy than conventional systems. While geothermal systems are more costly to install, they generally pay for themselves within five to 10 years.
DePauw Senior Michael Lutz and Sophomore Taylor Cantril began researching geothermal issues in June during a summer internship and continued their work during the university's winter term. After months of tenuous research, they brought the idea for this bill to Rep. Michael's attention.
Under the direction of Kelsey Kauffman, Asst. Professor of University Studies, Lutz, Cantril and many of their DePauw classmates attended today's committee hearing and testified before lawmakers about how the bill would benefit school corporations. Lutz and Cantril provided a report on their research for committee members to review.
The bill would require the Indiana Department of Education (DOE) to administer the newly established Geothermal Conversion Revolving Fund to loan money to school corporations that wish to install geothermal systems. School corporations would be required to pay back the loan within 15 years.
"By establishing this fund, we empower schools to reduce their carbon footprint and dramatically cut energy costs," Michael said. "Eventually, the dollars once spent on utilities can be funneled back to where they belong -- the classroom."
Michael said that since the state is currently facing a revenue shortfall, the fund wouldn't be created until fiscal year 2011. At that time, $2 million would be appropriated from the state general fund.
The measure passed committee by a vote of 10-0, and will now move to the House floor for consideration.
"I'd like to thank the committee for their consideration and approval on a bill that will benefit schools, taxpayers and the environment," Michael said. "I'd especially like to thank Michael, Taylor and all of the other DePauw students that helped make this bill a reality."