Ohio Senate Republicans will release a plan today to call a halt to annual increases in “green” energy standards.
The proposal, first reported by The Dispatch on Sunday, would cancel the next 11 years’ worth of increases in the requirements. The rules apply to electricity utilities’ purchases of renewable energy and programs that help customers improve energy efficiency.
Opponents say the plan will lead to a pullback on clean-energy investments, which will cost the state jobs and lead to dirtier air.
This is the latest attempt by House and Senate Republicans to respond to the concerns of utilities and business groups that say parts of a 2008 energy law have unreasonably high costs.
Ohio would remain among the 30 or so states that have requirements for renewable energy, but its benchmarks would be some of the lowest in the group.
Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, was involved in writing the bill and said he hopes to see it pass the Senate and House before legislators begin a summer recess in late May.
“What we want to do as a legislature is put procedures in place that are based on evidence and science, not based on ideas that happened back when we thought Solyndra was going to be a good investment for the federal government,” he said.
Solyndra was a solar-panel maker in California that went bankrupt in 2011, even after government aid. Its problems are often cited by critics of renewable-energy requirements and subsidies.
Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, is the Ohio bill’s lead sponsor.
In addition, the measure says a study committee would look at other changes to the law and make recommendations. The 20-member panel would be split evenly between legislators and representatives of interest groups.
The plan being introduced today falls short of the full repeal of the energy standards that some GOP legislators want.
At the same time, it would be severe blow to environmentalists, consumer advocates and some energy businesses; they have argued that the standards are a net positive for consumers and the economy. This side has included business groups such as the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association and Advanced Energy Economy Ohio.
Both sides say they are looking out for the best interests of consumers. The differences come down to the methods of calculating costs and to projections of how costs will change over time.
“This is not just about the environment. It’s about saving customers money,” said Rob Kelter, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
The Balderson bill is a “dramatic and draconian” attack on a law that has been good for the economy, said a statement from Zach Roberts, Ohio director for Operation Free, a clean-energy advocate.
Faber disagrees with the idea that energy-efficiency programs have led to savings that are greater than their costs.
“We’ve spent $1.1 billion since 2009 on energy efficiency. … I’m not quite sure what we’ve gotten out of it,” he said.
The critics of the standards include the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, and FirstEnergy Corp., the Akron-based utility company.
The measure would make changes to parts of Senate Bill 221. Under that 2008 law, electricity utilities have to meet annual benchmarks for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The law says utilities must get 25 percent of their electricity from renewable or “advanced” sources by 2025. Of that amount, half, or 12.5 percent, must come from renewable sources such as wind and solar.
Advanced energy, which is the other 12.5 percent of the goal, has no annual targets other than the final one in 2025; this target would be eliminated by the proposal.
Current law says that advanced energy can include traditional sources that are conducted in a more environmentally friendly manner, including “clean” coal and advanced nuclear, neither of which have been done on a commercial scale.
The energy-efficiency part of the law says utilities must help customers make energy-saving improvements by 2025 that add up to 22 percent of what electricity use would have been without the improvements. As with the renewable-energy rules, utilities have to meet annual benchmarks for energy efficiency.
If the bill becomes law, the standards would remain at current levels, which is 2.5 percent for renewable energy and 4.2 percent for energy efficiency. The standards would be frozen at about one-fifth of the level of improvement ultimately intended by the 2008 law.
Utilities have signed long-term contracts to meet the standards. In light of this, the bill says that utilities can continue with contracts and projects that are in progress.
Several other proposals would change parts of the 2008 law. Faber said this new bill is much simpler than some of the others and represents a compromise.
“We’re trying to balance this,” he said. “This process, from my perspective, has been done by listening to everybody’s interests.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding