Ohio lawmakers have yet another alternative energy plan to choose from as they try to spur economic development throughout the Buckeye State.
Rep. Jim McGregor yesterday unveiled a proposal to establish a 22 percent renewable energy standard in Ohio by 2020.
McGregor, a Gahanna Republican, called the proposal a “step in the right direction,” to focus on alternative energies.
The proposal was developed with the help of the House Alternative Energy Committee, of which McGregor serves as chair. McGregor said the committee believes the legislation is a balanced proposal that will address Ohio’s energy future.
“The world has changed. The days of cheap oil and burning coal are gone with the wind,” he said, noting the increase in oil prices and natural gas shortages are permanent. “We have to deal with this issue … or we’ll pay a terrible price.”
McGregor and the rest of the committee spent months meeting with interested parties such as the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Ohio Farmers Union and the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation to develop the 22 percent standard, which he admitted other interested parties may believe is too strong a number.
He said he is looking forward to meeting with other interested parties, specifically Gov. Ted Strickland’s office, to determine an appropriate number.
Strickland introduced his Energy, Jobs and Progress plan in August, calling for 25 percent of Ohio’s energy to come from alternative sources by 2025, no less than half of which must be from renewable sources.
McGregor said Strickland’s proposal was meant to generate discussions on developing an alternative energy standard, as it focuses more on industry regulation.
“It’s a place to start talking,” he said of the governor’s proposal. “But we want to work together and find the right number for Ohio.”
Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said the governor believes his Energy, Jobs and Progress plan is the right plan for Ohio, and noted that advanced and renewable energies are an essential part of the plan.
“The governor believes through investing in renewable energy, Ohio will secure the energy jobs of the future, and energy prices will be more stable and predictable in the long term if we have more diverse energy services in Ohio,” he said. “Though there may be some differences (between the proposals), the governor looks forward to working with the legislature, and he is hopeful they will come to an agreement on a renewable and advanced energy portfolio that will serve Ohio.”
McGregor agreed, noting that an established standard such his would greatly benefit Ohio’s economy, specifically the manufacturing and farming sectors. Under McGregor’s proposal, all renewable energy within the portfolio must be generated in Ohio.
McGregor said his proposal contains provisions to eliminate barriers to distributed generation, such as required fees. A landfill in his district would have been required to pay $60,000 in fees for producing $30,000 worth of energy from waste gas, he said.
The proposal would eliminate the fees, allowing Ohio businesses and farms to generate their own energy from bio-gas, waste heat, waste oil, fuel cells and solar wind.
The bill would also open only developed portions of state lands, defined as those covered by concrete, asphalt, gravel, turf, agricultural crops or field succession not to exceed 10 years in age, to oil and gas recovery.
McGregor said the committee worked with environmental groups to create the definition to allow exploration of properties, “but not in a way that’s environmentally harmful.”
The legislation also would make the Lake Erie bottom available for lease for the purpose of wind development; create efficiency standards for Ohio’s electric utilities; and create the Ohio Translational Science Center to provide guidance to the administration and legislature regarding energy issues, and to coordinate and provide research to move energy innovations into market.
McGregor said he is hopeful the legislation will receive committee hearings in the near future, and that he looks forward to working with House Speaker Jon Husted and Strickland’s administration on the bill.
“I think we’re very much in agreement that we need to move ahead,” he said. “We think it’s a pivotal time in Ohio’s history. We need bold action, strong action … and we need to work together to bring Ohio into a prosperous future.”
By Chris Spittal
18 October 2007
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