American Electric Power now counts itself among the supporters of a far-reaching proposal to revise state rules for energy efficiency and renewable energy, joining other large employers and energy companies lined up behind the measure.
AEP’s endorsement comes as Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, lead sponsor of the bill making the changes, says he is about to release a new version that would delay one of the most controversial provisions. He hopes to amend the legislation, Senate Bill 58, and for it to come up for a vote in the next two weeks.
The current version would repeal a rule that says electric utilities must purchase half of their renewable energy from sources within Ohio. Seitz’s rewrite will delay that provision for several years, with the precise time frame still being determined, he said.
Opponents say the bill is a giveaway to electric utilities and large businesses at the expense of the state’s “green” economy.
Seitz described the bill’s opponents as “the usual suspects,” a group that he said includes “ enviro-socialist rent-seekers” who depend on government mandates, while he said its supporters include a wide array of businesses and labor groups.
Columbus-based AEP has been watching the proposal’s progress but stopped short of endorsing it publicly until yesterday.
“Broadly, we think S.B. 58 is moving the state policy in the right direction, and we hope to see it passed,” said Pablo Vegas, president and chief operating officer of AEP Ohio. “Customers and businesses will benefit.”
Vegas sat alongside Seitz and other supporters of the bill in a meeting with Dispatch reporters and editors yesterday.
The bill makes changes to a 2008 energy law, creating a series of exceptions to rules that say utilities must meet annual benchmarks for energy efficiency and renewable energy. Seitz says he wants the law to better reflect how the economy has evolved in the past five years.
Dan Sawmiller, a Sierra Club staff member based in Columbus, said he was “flabbergasted” to learn that AEP is coming out in support of the measure because the company has done an admirable job of encouraging conservation, more so than other electric utilities in the state.
“It is extremely disheartening to see AEP give in to the temptation to support this,” he said.
“Energy efficiency is the cheapest option for meeting your power needs,” Sawmiller said. By removing incentives for energy efficiency, the bill “is going to raise rates for consumers, period.”
He said the bill’s opponents go far beyond a few environmentalists, and include the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and some major companies, such as Honda and Scotts Miracle-Gro.
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