Three years after legislators voted nearly unanimously to require Ohio’s power companies to meet new green-energy standards, at least a few Republicans say it’s time to repeal the rules to save jobs and avoid higher electricity costs.
Environmental groups are sharply criticizing the plan.
Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Powell, introduced a bill this week that would eliminate Ohio’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, which requires that at least 12.5 percent of electricity generation come from renewable sources by 2025, and another 12.5 percent come from other advanced-energy sources such as nuclear power and clean coal.
“With one of the worst recessions in recent memory still fresh in our minds, the last thing we need to do in Ohio is drive up the cost of energy for both Ohio families and Ohio businesses, and that’s exactly what the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard does,” Jordan said in a release.
He pointed to a study by the American Tradition Institute, which argued that the standards would force Ohioans to pay $8.6 billion more for electricity between 2016 and 2025, with negligible environmental benefit. The Washington, D.C.-based research group has challenged environmental regulations in a number of states.
Senate Bill 216 puts in the cross hairs yet another Gov. Ted Strickland-era policy, one he hoped would bring more wind- and solar-power jobs to Ohio.
The standards were established in 2008 as part of a broader electricity-regulation bill. Strickland initially proposed clean energy-benchmarks; then-House Speaker Jon Husted, a Republican, pushed to strengthen them.
The 2008 law also requires utilities to improve efficiency efforts, reducing power use by 22 percent by 2025. Jordan’s bill, which has two GOP co-sponsors, would not affect that part of the law.
“It’s out of touch with reality,” said Brian Kaiser, director of green jobs for the Ohio Environmental Council. “If you take a look around, Ohio’s economy is struggling. While the rest of the economy shrank, the clean-energy economy is growing.”
Jordan’s proposal “couldn’t have come at a worse time,” Kaiser said, noting that several companies are considering whether to bring renewable-energy manufacturing to Ohio. A key part of that decision is whether the state will have a robust market fueled by the current renewable-energy standards, he said.
American Electric Power has invested in several projects to meet the requirements of the renewable-energy standard. The largest is the proposed Turning Point Solar array in Noble County, which, at 50 megawatts, would be by far the largest project of its type in the state.
“Having diversity in (power sources) is a good thing,” said Terri Flora, a spokeswoman for AEP Ohio, speaking in general because she has not reviewed the new legislation. “Yes, it’s expensive, but there is room for diversity in a fuel portfolio.”
Other electric companies have not embraced the law as much as AEP has. For example, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio last month granted Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp.’s request for a waiver from the law. FirstEnergy argued that it had tried to meet the standard but was unable, a stance that earned a rebuke from some of the communities and groups tied to the solar-power industry.
Renewable-energy sources include solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and fuel derived from solid wastes. The standard phases in through 2025: 1 percent of electricity must come from renewable sources this year, rising to 1.5 percent in 2012.
Sen. David T. Daniels, a Greenfield Republican and chairman of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, said he’s heard discussions all over the board.
“We need to make sure we’re doing the right thing for ratepayers in Ohio by making sure we’ve got the most-sound energy policy we can,” Daniels said. “I believe there’s a place in the portfolio for everything. How we strike that balance is going to be some of the conversation.”
Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, said during the campaign last year and reiterated yesterday that “we’re not opposed to the standards.”
“We’ve always said that we simply want an energy policy that is business-friendly, enables energy companies to keep costs down, and is the most beneficial for consumers,” Nichols said.
Last fall, when asked by the Dayton Daily News if he would repeal the mandates, Kasich said: “If I were to determine that it was unrealistic and would drive up prices.”
He worried that Ohio would not produce enough renewable energy, forcing power companies to buy from elsewhere. “I don’t like that, and you can’t mandate invention.”
Nichols said Kasich will use the energy summit he’s hosting with Battelle, scheduled for Sept. 21-22 at Ohio State University, to “look at the entire energy policy for the state and determine how to harness that policy to create jobs.”
House Republican leaders also expect the energy-standards issue to come up this fall when Rep. Peter Stautberg, R-Cincinnati, the chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee, hosts a series of energy-oversight hearings.
Dispatch reporter Joe Vardon contributed to this story.
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