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Lawmakers should free alternative energy bill

Ohio’s mandate that utilities obtain much of the electricity they sell from “alternative” sources already has cost consumers millions of dollars needlessly. It is time to call a halt and re-evaluate the law.

A bill already approved by the state Senate would do just that. It should be approved by the state House of Represenatives.

Like many other states, Ohio legislators approved so-called “renewable portfolio standards” a few years ago. They call for utilities to obtain 25 percent of the electricity they sell from alternative sources such as solar and wind power, by 2025. At least half the electricity has to come from sources deemed “renewable.”

Because the standards are being phased in, utilities already are spending money to buy power more expensive than if it had been produced at coal-fired generating stations. The additional costs are passed on to consumers.

In effect, Ohioans are being forced to spend more than necessary on electricity. That prompted thoughtful legislators to introduce a bill that calls for a two-year freeze in requirements for alternative sources of electricity and energy conservation. The bill was approved by the state Senate.

During the two-year freeze period, the matter would be studied with an eye to revising the standards in 2017. If no action is taken, the requirements would kick back in then.

But before the bill was approved, several amendments were adopted. They have spurred new opposition from some lawmakers.

One amendment would cancel the requirement that “alternative” energy be purchased from in-state sources. That one has been and would be a gold mine for developers of new generating stations using technologies such as wind and solar power. It also would increase electricity prices for consumers.

Another change would add additional types of power generation that could be considered as alternatives.

Opponents of the bill insist the amendments put the cart before the horse, by changing the rules before the study commission has a chance to do its work.

Nonsense. Remember, the bill’s primary goal is to suspend the standards entirely for two years. If at the end of that time lawmakers decide to make changes, including rescinding the amendments being considered now, they can do so.

Ohioans need a break from electricity costs that continue going up for no good reason. House members should approve the bill to provide that pause, so thoughtful consideration can be given to scrapping the mandates entirely.