In this issue
- H-IPL Recognized as Partner for Clean Air by MACOG
- Anti-Rooftop Solar Bill Passed by Legislature
- Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus Is Sun Powered
- Indiana’s First Solar-Powered Seminary
- Do Solar Panels Make a Difference? Energy Stewards Data for the Winchester Friends Meeting
- Hoosier Earth Day Reports
- Hoosiers March in D.C. and Indianapolis
- Energy Stewards: Tool to Track and Change Your Power
- Plan Ahead for Upcoming Workshops in Northern Indiana
- Did you know?
- Check the Events Calendar
- Consider a Donation
H-IPL Recognized as Partner for Clean Air by MACOG
By Andrew Turba
Last November, Hoosier Environmental Council honored H-IPL as Sustainable Champion of the Year. Now the Michiana Area Council of Governments (MACOG) is recognizing us. At an award luncheon on April 25 in Elkhart, they honored our work helping congregations install solar panels with the distinguished Partner for Clean Air Award.
The luncheon was held at the Matterhorn conference center in Elkhart, Indiana, and attended by about 70 individuals with a concern for the environment and sustainability. H-IPL board member the Rev. Kimberly Koczan-Flory attended to receive the award, accompanied by Andrew Turba from St. Anthony de Padua and Vic Myers from Kern Road Mennonite, two of our five solar congregations in South Bend (pictured L to R: Turba, Koczan-Flory, Myers).
MACOG is a regional intergovernmental agency established to foster cooperative and coordinated planning for St. Joseph, Elkhart, Kosiusko, and Marshall Counties. It aids 35 local governing bodies by coordinating infrastructure and transportation decisions: rail, bicycle and pedestrian planning, air and water quality, with a goal of creating communities with a high quality of life.
Luncheon speakers included Shawn Seals, senior environmental manager for the Office of Air Quality of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM); Carl Lisek of South Shore Clean Cities Inc. (SSCC), which encourages individuals, businesses, and government agencies to replace and eliminate inefficient vehicles; and Leah Thill of Solsmart, which works to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for residents to implement solar.
Thill had nominated H-IPL for the Clean Air Award in recognition of our work with diverse religious communities throughout the South Bend area, including five South Bend congregations (Kern Road Mennonite, First United Methodist, Islamic Society of Michiana, Olivet African Methodist Episcopal, and St. Anthony de Padua Catholic) and one Elkhart seminary (Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, see article below), among the many statewide that we have helped to save money, build community, and further environmental stewardship goals.
Anti-Rooftop Solar Bill Passed by Legislature, Signed by Governor, Disappointing Thousands
Despite widespread public opposition, the anti-net metering bill SB 309 passed through the Indiana legislature in April and, on May 2, was signed by Governor Eric Holcomb. Ignoring many who still aspire to install solar, he emphasized the grandfathering in of those who are already solar powered, saying, “I understand the concerns some have expressed, but this legislation ensures that those who currently have interests in small solar operations will not be affected for decades.”
For months, thousands of H-IPL supporters and other environmentally-minded Hoosiers testified, wrote, and called their senators and representatives, and in the final days, as the bill reached the governor’s desk, continued to contact his office, sending showers of hand-written cards urging him to do right by citizens and the threatened Indiana solar industry.
Hearing news of the governor’s move, H-IPL board chair, the Rev. T. Wyatt Watkins, said, “Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light profoundly regrets Governor Holcomb’s decision to sign SB309, the anti-net-metering bill that threatens to set back greatly the march of renewable energy in Indiana. We lament this decision’s negative impact on clean energy job growth and a healthier environment for all, and will continue to labor for a Hoosier share in the green economy of the future.”
Board vice-chair and leader of Using Energy Prudently Ray Wilson said: “I am disappointed that the governor thought only about the present situation and not about the future of jobs and opportunities for solar on homes, businesses, community and religious buildings. I am also sad that it seems that a few big monopoly businesses with money to spend on politics can be more influential than thousands of people whom the government is supposed to serve.”
Other environmental leaders in Indiana have responded similarly, including Hoosier Environmental Council director Jesse Kharbanda, who said: “By signing SB 309, Governor Holcomb has chosen to go against his No. 1 legislative priority, which is for Indiana to be a magnet for jobs. SB 309 puts Indiana in a worse off position vis-a-vis our neighbors—and Midwestern competitors—with respect to customer-owned solar energy generation.”
Kerwin Olson, director of Citizens Action Coalition, responded: “What CAC finds most disturbing is the idea that the Indiana General Assembly can set ‘admittedly arbitrary’ utility rates into state law, bypassing the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission and the traditional practice of determining just and reasonable rates with evidence, facts, and hearings. That regulatory process was established to act as a surrogate to competition, and to ensure that the charges and rates offered by state-franchised monopolies were not confiscatory but were fair, just, and reasonable. This bill creates a dangerous precedent and flies in the face of the long established regulatory compact between the public and the monopoly utilities.”
Under the bill, current solar owners and those who install in 2017 will continue to receive retail-rate credit for the energy they generate for their neighbors for 30 years, but those who install between 2018 and 2022 will only receive this compensation for their contributions for 15 years. Afterward, all solar owners will receive credit at the wholesale rate plus 25%. Investor-owned utilities argue that they need to cut into customers’ credits in this way due to the cost of maintaining the grid. But studies in other states across the US have shown that, as the Brookings Institute recently determined, net-metering is a net benefit for all, despite the crude anti-net metering backlashes from utilities in states that fail to protect citizen interests.
The cost of solar is especially high for nonprofits such as religious congregations, since they cannot benefit from the national 30% tax credit that helps make solar affordable for individuals and businesses, and because they rely on donations for all expenses incurred in carrying out their charitable missions, including ever-increasing utility rates.
H-IPL urges congregations interested in solar to begin now to prepare to install before December 31, or at least before 2022, by taking the following steps:
- Secure approval from congregational leadership to install solar if funds become available. H-IPL can help you interpret the benefits of renewable energy for your congregation.
- Talk to an installer or two: They offer free estimates, and will help you consider the size, positioning, and cost of your array.
- Publicize the panels to your congregation as a project for which you are passively (or actively) raising funds.
- Learn and monitor your congregation’s energy consumption by joining Energy Stewards (see article below).
- Begin, or continue, energy conservation, using tools provided in the Using Energy Prudently Guide and learning more at one of our Using Energy Prudently Workshops.
- Register as a H-IPL Using Energy Prudently Congregation, using our full range of energy conservation tools and becoming eligible to be notified first if and when solar panel grant opportunities arise.
Many congregations find that once these steps are taken, reaching for solar is easier than they anticipated. As the Rev. Don Summerfield, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jeffersonville, noted, “Every other capital fund campaign our church has undertaken has also increased our annual property budget. But raising funds for solar actually decreases our building costs, allowing us to concentrate on giving to the poor in our community and abroad.” First Presbyterian recently raised $30,000 to install 15.3 kW of panels at a rate of $2/watt, more than doubling their original installation of 12.96 kW, which was bought in 2015 for $3/watt, and assuring that more than half of the church’s power will come from renewable energy.
H-IPL has helped 25 congregations directly through solar grants. But more and more are recognizing both the falling cost of solar and the rising need to care for the earth by curtailing utility use. Last month’s newsletter reported on Bethlehem UCC in Evansville, who installed a large system without a grant, and this month’s edition features the Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, who did the same. While all three congregations are motivated by urgency to forestall climate change for the sake of future generations, they also see financial benefits to be reaped for decades, even without net metering.
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbus Is Sun Powered
By Allen Gifford
Members of the UU Congregation in Columbus, Indiana (UUCCI) had been anticipating installation of 43 new solar panels on the southwest roof of their sanctuary in early May, but they were surprised by a welcome phone call to schedule an earlier installation. Completed at the end of March, the array was commissioned on April 4 following code inspections.
How They Did It
The installation was made possible by participating in the third round of the Columbus Community Solar Initiative (CCSI), which has brought competitive pricing to Columbus, and by the congregation’s generosity, with three major anonymous donors making up 87% of the $30,767 cost. The balance came through efforts by the church’s Green Sanctuary Team and recent capital fundraising.
How Much They Did
Along with their 7 original panels, the church now boasts 50, an increase of 11.61 kW. April found the system producing over 1.2 MWhs, enough to replace half of their utility use for the month. The orientation of the panels is excellent, and throughout sunny afternoons the system produces its AC maximum of 9 kW continuously, up to 70 kWhs per day. UUCCI now possesses the largest and perhaps only system on a church or commercial building in Bartholomew County.
You Are Invited
CCSI, UUCCI, SIREN, and Prosperity Indiana will partner on May 8 at 7:00 pm at UUCCI (7850 W. Goeller Blvd, Columbus) to encourage other churches, businesses, and homeowners to join the next round of installations by Third Sun through CCSI.
Solar is an excellent financial investment and, most importantly, an excellent environmental investment, and UUCCI members are proud to have taken this courageous step. Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light congratulates UUCCI for their vision and foresight.
Indiana’s First Solar-Powered Seminary
Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart has become Indiana’s first theological seminary to solarize. On Thursday, April 20, two days before Earth Day, AMBS dedicated their array of 180 330-watt panels on the campus’s south side. The panels are expected to generate nearly 79,000 kWh annually, offsetting more than a quarter of the electricity used in the seminary’s main classroom building each year.
The dedication took place during their third annual national environmental conference Rooted and Grounded: A Conference on Land and Christian Discipleship. The following day, Missy Kauffman Schrock, AMBS director of development and H-IPL board vice chair Ray Wilson led a solar workshop and tour.
“This is the largest solar panel array in the city of Elkhart,” noted Ms. Kauffman Schrock. “We are excited to add solar to our community and also to have it as another resource for conservation education.” Gerald Shenk, AMBS major gifts officer, initiated the idea in 2015, and Kauffman Schrock made it her MBA capstone project. The project came to fruition with help from the Energy Solutions Division of Telamon Enterprise Ventures, Carmel, Indiana, and a solar grant obtained through H-IPL.
“To see it come to life and to know that it will make a real impact on our campus, both financially and environmentally, is so gratifying,” said Kauffman Schrock. “At AMBS we take seriously our responsibility to be stewards of creation, and this is one of many ways we are actively living out God’s reconciling mission.”
The seminary demonstrates its commitment to creation care not only through physical features of its campus grounds and facilities —including six acres of native prairie, more than 20 tree species, and a LEED Gold certified library — but also through academic offerings, community life and relationships with other creation care practitioners. AMBS offers an Environmental Sustainability Concentration in its Master of Arts: Peace Studies program and its Master of Divinity Peace Studies concentration through a 15-week residency at Merry Lea Environmental Center of Goshen College.
Read a news article about AMBS’s solar panels here.
Do Solar Panels Make a Difference?
Energy Stewards Users Know
Pam Ferguson, pastor of Winchester Friends Meeting in Winchester, Indiana, has been using Energy Stewards to monitor the benefits of her church’s 8.64 kW system since its installation on the church annex roof in early 2016, and offers these statistics:
- 13,475 kilowatt hours of electricity produced from the solar panels (lowest daily reading was .84 kWhs on December 13, 2016; highest was 54.08 on March 22, 2017).
- 9,492 kWh exported to American Electric Power Company for credit.
- Electric utility consumption:
- April 2014: 1727 kWhs
- April 2015: 1507 kWhs
- April 2016: 824 kWhs
- April 2017: 509 kWhs
- Total electric costs:
- 2015: $2013
- 2016: $737
- $186 was paid to Winchester Friends for Solar Credits sold to an Illinois electric company
- Over 10 tons of CO2 avoided since the solar panels were installed
- Winchester Friends’ Energy Star Rating: 90 (100 is excellent; 75 qualifies for formal recognition)
The solar panels, along with other energy conservation measures (installing LED bulbs, unplugging unused appliances), are making a difference for Winchester Friends! Thank you all for your support and work to make this possible, and to Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light for the grant!
Hoosier Earth Day Reports
When Earth Day was born on April 22, 1970, Republican President Richard Nixon was hard at work, and not with the scandal that later drove him from office. His efforts alongside those of the Democratic-controlled US legislature brought us these bipartisan improvements to American policy: the EPA, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, the Lead-Based Paint Poisoning Prevention Act, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Endangered Species Act, not to mention the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Amtrak. In fact, in his 1970 state of the union address, Nixon said clean air, clean water and open spaces "should once again be the birthright of every American." It’s remarkable now for those who remember Watergate and Vietnam to feel nostalgia for a leader who is rated second only to Theodore Roosevelt in his protection for the environment.
H-IPL board member Dr. Saiyid Shah of Evansville wrote an article for the Courier & Press reflecting on Earth Day 1970 and 2017, and his eyewitness view of the hazardous pollution filling cities before environmental protections were established. It was picked up by USA Today, and you can read it here.
With critical progress toward a clean future threatened by the politics of radical greed and denial, Earth Day becomes all the more crucial to congregations and individuals passionate to bequeath a healthy world to our children. Last month H-IPL asked its supporters for stories of their own celebrations. If you meant to and forgot, never fear! We have plenty to share!
From St. Luke’s United Methodist, Indianapolis
Who better to carry the message of Earth Day than children ages 5 to 10? With the help of the Children's Education Director and the Children's Choir Director, St. Luke’s Creation Care Team brought an Earth Day message to the congregation in picture and song on April 23. As the children sang, art that they had created scrolled on the screen—simple, powerful messages that captured the hearts and minds of adults in the sanctuary.
During the children's own worship time they heard a story of what they could do to protect God's creation, and then they all went to their classrooms to draw colorful pictures. The pictures were collected and bound into spiral notebooks, which were returned to them on Sunday, April 30. Hopefully the children and their parents and grandparents will all remember the children's words and pictures and be more aware of what each person can do “to be God's Assistant in Caring for the Earth."
From St. Thomas Lutheran, Bloomington
Our Community Garden Blessing took place on Earth Sunday, April 23, and it was a blessing indeed! God's children of all ages gathered beneath a sunny sky on the bright cedar-mulched paths, surrounded by blossoms and bluebirds as we dedicated this lively space. The thirty-eight plot, 4'x8' raised bed space creates a 3-circuit labyrinth.
From Downey Avenue Christian, Indianapolis
Earth Sunday at Downey Avenue Christian began with a worship service built around Earth care through scripture, hymns, a special anthem, and the message from our pastor Trey Flowers.
The celebration continued on through the fellowship time. Along with healthy snacks, several earth-related activities were available, including: 1) making a small bird feeder with a cardboard tube, peanut butter, and bird seed; 2) stitching small mesh bags to use for produce shopping in the grocery store (avoiding plastic bags); 3) helping to start seed planting in our church garden and signing up to continue helping with the garden; 4) coloring some black and white drawings on earth themes prepared by a member of our Team; 5) making a poster to be carried in the upcoming Peoples Climate March. We also had available a display of Fair Trade products and encouraged our members to buy from this source.
From St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic, Indianapolis
Earth Week was celebrated at St. Thomas Aquinas School on April 17 – 21. Students brought shoes to be donated to the St. Vincent de Paul resale shop; sneakers that can no longer be worn will be taken to a Nike store for recycling into playground material. A “Least Lunch Trash” contest was held all week to encourage students to pack Earth-friendly lunches and to minimize trash. Unopened packages and whole fruits were collected for the food pantry, food scraps were gathered for our chickens or composted, and milk cartons were recycled. Students enjoyed the gift of nature with an extra outdoor recess time, and saw an environmentally themed play put on by the Young Actor’s Theater called “A Line in the Land”. They also designed prayer flags that expressed their hopes and prayers for the Earth.
The weekend of April 22 and 23 brought together two important days: Earth Day and Divine Mercy Sunday, celebrated by Catholics the Sunday after Easter. Parishioners signed letters to be delivered to our congressional representatives asking them to support environmental protections.
Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light
H-IPL participated in Earth Day Indy on Saturday, April 22, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Lafayette and Eastside Creation Care Network. The Archdiocese had a clever activity for participants to learn what causes their carbon footprint. ECCN invited hundreds to create postcards opposing SB309, later delivered to Governor Holcomb. Many stopped by following the March for Science, which ended at the Earth Fair site in Indy.
Hoosiers March in D.C. and Indianapolis
Many H-IPL supporters traveled to D.C. to participate in the April 29 People’s Climate March. St. Thomas Aquinas members participated in a lobby day sponsored by the Catholic Climate Covenant on the previous day, visiting with Senators Donnelly and Young, and marched in the People’s Climate March on Saturday, carrying the prayer flags made by the St. Thomas Aquinas students. They “prayed with their feet,” joining an estimated 200,000 people on a sweltering April afternoon.
Board treasurer Bruce Russell-Jayne, accompanied by his spouse Cece, snapped this picture of the colorful crowd, and program facilitator Trisha Tull and her spouse Don Summerfield were caught in this one.
Meanwhile, others marched in Indianapolis.
May the spirit that unites us to march continue to infuse us every day, giving thanks for—and defending—the blessings of life on earth!
Energy Stewards: Tool to Track and Change Your Power
Conserving utilities saves money that can be used for other purposes. More importantly, cutting out waste helps reduce many forms of pollution, from air and water contamination that create health hazards, to greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. For reasons economic, ecological, and ethical, congregations are attending to such seemingly mundane matters as our energy bills, light switches, thermostats, and HVAC systems.
The first step to energy conservation is knowing your utility use. Hoosier IPL works with Energy Stewards in Madison, Wisconsin, to offer your congregation an online interface to make tracking your energy easy and even fun. Graphs display your use and cost, as well as CO2 emissions, energy intensity, and Energy Star rating. Here is a sample:
Cost per congregation is only $150 per year. Once you have enrolled and provided utility login information, Energy Stewards will upload your monthly utility information. It interfaces with EPA’s Portfolio Manager program, allowing your congregation to apply for Energy Star certification, and offers abundant tools for planning and carrying out conservation measures with the support of other congregations in H-IPL’s UEP community.
Read more about Energy Stewards here. Explore the site itself here by logging in as email@example.com, with the password “energy.” Find an enrollment form here. Join congregations across the state in learning how you can save both money and carbon.
Plan Ahead for Upcoming Workshops in Northern Indiana
Using Energy Prudent Workshops in South Bend and Fort Wayne
The next Using Energy Prudently Workshops will be held at Beacon Heights Church of the Brethren in Fort Wayne on Saturday, August 26, 1:00-5:00 pm, and First United Methodist Church in South Bend (date TBA).
H-IPL’s Using Energy Prudently workshops equip congregations with the tools they need to greatly reduce energy use in houses of worship and save significant funds for other purposes.
Gain practical information about sealing your building's envelope; maintaining and replacing HVAC equipment; using zoning and thermostats to slash energy waste; lighting technologies for various rooms; and detecting energy hogs in your building.
Who should attend? Send a team of two to four people, including a leader from the Building or House Committee, a trustee, and green team member.
Savings: Your congregation can save a lot on utility bills by cutting out waste. And these funds can go straight into mission. One of our congregations cut its energy use by 50% – and is saving $10,000 a year.
How-To Help: You can do this! With stories and step-by-step tools, we’ll show you how to cut your congregation’s energy use and get your congregation on board. You’ll have time to figure out what will work for you. You’ll get just what you need to put your learning into action.
Support: And you’ll leave with a community. The workshop will give you a network that can support you as you save your congregation money for mission.
Go here for more information, and watch for registration on the H-IPL Calendar. Participants may also register at the door. Registration covers refreshments and a notebook of materials to take with you.
Climate Boot Camps in South Bend and Fort Wayne
Day-long workshops for faith leaders and members called “Climate Boot Camp” are being scheduled at St. Anthony Catholic Church in South Bend on Saturday, September 16, and at Plymouth Congregational Church in Fort Wayne (September date TBA).
These events are led by climate scientist Dr. Ben Brabson, environmental theologian Dr. Trisha Tull, and H-IPL board chair the Rev. Wyatt Watkins. They will discuss the scientific, theological, economic, and pastoral challenges and rewards of speaking out about climate change. We hope to help every Hoosier of faith to speak confidently and boldly about global warming and its impacts, and to encourage their communities to respond with vigor and hope.
According to a recent article in Grist, most people care about climate change but don’t talk about it, simply because they don’t hear others doing so. This is a pattern of inaction that we have a moral responsibility to break—by talking and acting!
Go here for more information, and watch for registration on the H-IPL Calendar. Immediately upon registration you will receive downloadable articles to read to prepare you for the day. Registration covers lunch, a folder of materials, and a two-hour support follow-up meeting three months later.
Did You Know?
Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light does a lot with very little, but we need YOUR help as well! Our small part-time staff and faithful volunteers crisscross the state of Indiana, bringing workshops, advocacy campaigns, and energy-saving tools to your door. Our award-winning organization has become THE faith voice for environmental sanity among Hoosiers. You can join our work and support us in these ways:
- Join us as an individual, congregation, or regional group, or partner with us as a denomination or environmental organization.
- Invite us to speak to your congregation, school, or civic group by contacting Trisha Tull.
- Follow our advocacy campaigns for a cleaner Indiana, and encourage your friends and family to do the same by signing up here.
- Make regular tax-deductible donations here.
- Encourage your congregation’s leaders or green team to add H-IPL to your annual mission budget.
- Contribute to the hopeful news we publish each month (many thanks for current contributions from Andrew Turba, Wyatt Watkins, Ray Wilson, Kerwin Olson, Don Summerfield, Allen Gifford, Missy Kauffman Schrock, Pam Ferguson, Betty Brandt, Marie Fleming, Jennie Beth and Bob Baker, Sharon Horvath, Dennis Shock, Bruce Russell-Jayne, Trisha Tull, and our editor Allan Edmonds—17 H-IPL members representing 14 congregations and 10 faith traditions in 8 Indiana cities).
We make a big difference, but we need YOUR help too!
Check the H-IPL on-line calendar
Find future events in your area, including movies, lectures, and workshops.
Consider a Donation
Grassroots efforts to address climate change are more important than ever. Please consider a gift to help H-IPL continue to grow and build the movement to care for creation in 2017.