A bill that would eliminate the requirement that 12.5 percent of Ohio’s energy come from renewable sources by 2025 got a warm reception from a Senate committee yesterday, but it is unclear how much farther the bill is going.
The state requires investor-owned electric companies such as American Electric Power to generate 25 percent of their power from advanced or renewable sources by 2025.
Half must come from each source, under the bill passed by the GOP-controlled legislature in 2008.
“It is my strong conviction that the choice of energy supply should come from the demands of the free market, and not from policymakers and environmental lobbyists,” said Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Powell, sponsor of the bill that would eliminate the requirement for use of renewable-energy sources such as wind and solar.
Jordan told the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee that the renewable-energy standard will increase electricity costs and cost jobs.
“Things ought to develop as quickly as they can without laws,” said Alan Smith, Ohio director of the Heartland Institute, a conservative public-policy research group. “Laws that contemplate certain types of technology that we don’t have yet are always going to be a problem.”
Jordan cited a study by the free-market research group Beacon Hill Institute that showed the state’s requirement would raise Ohioans’ electricity costs by $8.6 billion between 2016 and 2025.
That study failed to look at market realities, which include declining renewable-energy costs in states that are farther down that road than Ohio, said Steve Caminati, executive director of the Ohio Business Council for a Clean Economy.
“I tell policymakers that the single best thing you can do right now is nothing,” Caminati said. “Let the market continue to work, and let the technologies compete to put the best and most cost-effective projects on the ground.”
A few Republican senators on the committee spoke approvingly of the bill.
Sen. Troy Balderson, a Zanesville Republican and committee vice chairman, said he likes the bill, but he noted that his district is in line for a large plant, Turning Point Solar, a nearly 240,000-panel solar array to be built near The Wilds nature conservancy.
The bill “would cut against that, which is why I want to look into it and see what is going to be affected by it,” Balderson said. “But my initial concerns are my coal-burning plants that we need to keep going.”
Jeff Rennie, spokesman for AEP Ohio, said it is doubtful that renewable energy will affect the company’s use of coal plants. He said the company is expected to close some coal plants because of federal EPA regulations.
AEP has taken steps toward increasing renewable power and is scheduled to buy more through its part-ownership of Turning Point.
“It’s difficult right now in that there is not a whole lot of renewable energy being built in Ohio,” Rennie said.
Asked about Jordan’s bill, Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, did not say how or whether the bill will proceed.
Some energy-related interests are watching for energy-policy changes in Gov. John Kasich’s upcoming mid-biennium budget review.
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