Rep. Michael Skindell said that while driving through New York state on a recent trip to Boston, he passed a number of trucks hauling massive pieces of wind turbines. He immediately realized Ohio had missed an opportunity.
Though it has a strong manufacturing base, Skindell said, he knew those parts were not made in Ohio.
“We have the manufacturing capabilities, but we’re not doing it because we don’t have a standard,” he said.
With a renewable portfolio standard in place, Ohio could become a leader in renewable energies and boost the economy by creating manufacturing jobs, he explained.
Earlier this week, Skindell, a Democrat from Lakewood, unveiled a plan that would set Ohio on a course to receive 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2018.
Co-sponsored by Rep. Bob Hagan, D-Youngstown, the bill would require electric utilities offering services in Ohio to provide 2 percent of their energy from renewable sources such as wind, solar, biomass and low-impact hydroelectric facilities beginning in 2009, increasing by 2 percent each year until 2018.
“Renewable energy is the wave of the future,” Skindell said, adding an RPS will bring jobs to the state and spur economic development. “We need to act upon it in order to be competitive.”
The plan comes a little more than two weeks after Gov. Ted Strickland announced his energy policy, which would require at least 25 percent of electricity sold in Ohio be provided by advanced energy technologies by 2025. The plan includes renewable energies, as well as nuclear and clean coal technology.
Skindell said Strickland and his staff were aware he was developing his RPS proposal when the governor was crafting his plan, which is not solely an RPS.
Skindell’s bill is a response to Strickland’s challenge to the legislature to improve upon his plan, just as it did with the governor’s higher education proposal earlier this year.
The proposal is an amended version of legislation Skindell and Hagan have been advocating for the past five years, Skindell said. The bill was changed in order to address advances in technology, include a requirement for energy to be produced by hydrogen fuel cells and to focus on wind production in Northeast Ohio.
“I think it’s great that it actually is specifying using only renewable sources,” said Amy Gomberg, spokeswoman for Environment Ohio, a group that earlier urged the governor to include an RPS in his plan. “We’re really excited about it.”
Ohio has fallen behind a bit, she added, as 25 other states already have enacted some form of an RPS.
“These standards are not a complicated measure,” Gomberg said, noting an investment would help create jobs and boost the economy. “This would be a great step for Ohio.”
Skindell said that by not having a plan in place, Ohio already has lost the ability to create jobs, and it may soon lose jobs if an RPS is not enacted.
“We’re at a crossroads right now,” he said. “If we don’t act soon, (jobs) are going to go to other states.”
A renewable standard would create and attract thousands of industrial, manufacturing and construction jobs, as well as benefit Ohio’s agricultural sector, according to Skindell.
Skindell’s plan would increase the usage of renewable energies by just 2 percent each year, with 1 percent of each increase required to come from wind energy.
“A number of other states have a more aggressive standard than that,” he said. “My standard is something that can be achieved.”
While half of the renewable energy required under the proposal would come from wind, 250 megawatts of that energy must be sourced from wind farms on Lake Erie, one of the many areas of Ohio that could be developed as such.
A wind farm on Lake Erie would be the first freshwater wind farm in the world, Skindell added.
“We could be a leader,” he said.
Hagan said since utility companies have given “lip service” to the renewable energy issue since he first introduced it with Skindell during his time in the Ohio Senate, it was time for lawmakers to form a plan to create jobs and boost the state’s economy.
“If the electric industry is either unwilling or unable to provide Ohioans with the clean, reliable and affordable electricity they desire, then it is up to policymakers in Columbus to force renewable standards and provide incentives,” he said.
Gomberg said she hopes to be involved with the bill through the legislative process, as well as any other bill proposing an RPS. Rep. Jim McGregor, a Gahanna Republican, currently is developing a proposal that would require 20 percent of Ohio’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2020, she added.
“It’s just great to see there’s so much support of renewable energy,” she said.
Both Skindell and Gomberg said an RPS for Ohio must be completed by year’s end, or it would represent yet another missed opportunity for the state.
By Chris Spittal
14 September 2007