Senate Republicans have a new plan for “green” energy standards following negotiations with Gov. John Kasich, a proposal that was immediately attacked by consumer advocates and many others.
The new plan, an amendment to Senate Bill 310, calls for a two-year freeze in annual increases in state standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency. This is in contrast to the permanent freeze that is now in the bill.
The new plan, to be released today, is a response to the concerns Kasich raised in a meeting last week, when the Republican governor may have threatened to veto the bill if changes were not made, Republican Senate President Keith Faber of Celina said.
“After much reluctance, we’ve said to the governor if this is what you want, we will make it happen,” Faber said.
During the two-year freeze, a special committee would study whether to make other changes to the energy rules and make recommendations to the legislature. If lawmakers do not set a new course in that time, then annual increases would re-start in 2017 and continue until 2027, Faber said.
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Kasich, would say only that “we are continuing to talk with Senate leaders” about the revamped bill.
Faber credited bill sponsor Sen. Troy Balderson of Zanesville for crafting the changes.
“He did yeoman’s work,” Faber said.
Reaction was swift yesterday evening, with opponents of S.B. 310 saying the new plan is not an improvement.
“In our opinion, it is in many ways worse than Senate Bill 310 as introduced,” Dayna Baird Payne, a lobbyist for the American Wind Energy Association and renewable-energy clients.
She pointed to several parts of the proposal that she said will undermine clean-energy businesses.
Senate Republicans had the opportunity to compromise with critics but have not done so, said Dave Rinebolt, executive director of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy. He thinks the new plan would lead to uncertainty about the standards and steer investment away from the state.
“This isn’t a good business environment,” he said of the new bill.
Jack Shaner, deputy director of the Ohio Environmental Council, issued this statement: “This is a freeze from which Ohio may never thaw. Gov. Kasich, please say it isn’t so!”
Among the other changes with the new plan:
• Starting in 2017, large commercial and industrial energy- users would have the option to opt out of the standards.
• Households would have the option to opt out if the costs of meeting the standards ever exceed 3 percent of the generation portion of the electricity bill.
• Utilities would no longer be required to purchase half of their renewable energy from in-state sources.
The debate deals with energy standards that were set by a 2008 law, which said utilities had to meet a series of annual benchmarks until 2025.
S.B. 310 has split the business community. It has the support of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and other statewide business groups, and of FirstEnergy, the Akron-based utility. It is opposed by key employers such as Honda and trade associations such as the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association.
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