Indiana's major utility companies are charging us money to save us money.

However, they didn't spend all the money we paid, so they have to give some of it back.

The money went to a new project known as Energizing Indiana. Many of you probably received a mailing explaining the program and how it could save you money on your energy bills.

The need for a refund raises questions about the wisdom of the whole idea.

But since Energizing Indiana is likely to continue, local residents and businesses should consider taking advantage of it.

The news report focuses on Energizing Indiana's results in 2012, its first year of operation.

Six of the state's largest electricity and natural gas companies - including Duke Energy - take part in Energizing Indiana.

Last year, those companies promised to spend $74 million on Energizing Indiana. However, they spent only $42 million, so they are required to make refunds of $32 million.

The project reports saving 416 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. That sounds impressive until you realize that Indiana uses an estimated 30 billion kilowatt-hours per year. Doing the math, that computes to a savings of less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

The results seem disappointing for a $42 million investment.

But for Hoosier homeowners and businesses, Energizing Indiana could be worth a visit to its website,

Anyone who is a customer of the six utilities can qualify for a "residential home energy assessment." An energy adviser will make a home visit to check the efficiency of heating and cooling equipment, insulation, light bulbs and plumbing fixtures.

Lower-income households may qualify for free services from Energizing Indiana - such as free high-efficiency light bulbs, insulation for water pipes and low-flow shower heads.

Energy auditors also will make free visits to schools for assessments and to install free, energy-saving devices. Each school can get vending-machine timers, light bulbs and devices that shut off lights in empty rooms.

Businesses can qualify for rebates on improvements that save energy.

Finally, the site helps consumers find stores that give discounts on efficient light bulbs.

We're not entirely convinced that it makes sense to charge consumers extra for a program that achieves minuscule energy savings.

But as long as Energizing Indiana exists, it would be wise for Hoosiers to make the most of its services. For your individual home or business, Energizing Indiana could make a significant payback.