Ohio’s two-year timeout on its mandate that utilities get more of their power from renewable and advanced technology sources has dampened investment in what were once booming solar and wind industries in the state, according to a study released Tuesday.
The nonpartisan Pew Charitable Trust looked at what Ohio’s decision to at least temporarily pause its march toward greener and more efficient energy is having on related industries.
“Historically, the large majority of our projects have been in Ohio, and moving forward we expect almost none of them to be,” said Jay Troger, CEO of Nextronex, a Toledo solar-component manufacturing company. He joined two other green power company executives in a panel discussion in support of the Pew study.
Lawmakers last year froze the annual benchmarks for renewable and efficiency requirements at their 2014 levels for the next two years while a special committee re-examines the standards and makes recommendations for possible legislative changes.
Supporters of the freeze have argued that the escalating standards are reaching the point where they will cause real pain for consumers, particularly heavy industry. The Pew study did not look at whether those claims are true.
Sam Randazzo, general counsel for the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio, said a study of the benefits of the mandates must come with a study of the costs involved.
“The claims about benefits are fine,” he said. “We can have an interesting debate about some of the assumptions, but everything has to be grounded with the relative costs. Because of their intermittent nature – wind power is generated only when the wind blows, and solar power is generated when the sun provides adequate light – they tend to come up short in reliability and that leads to relatively high costs.”
A law passed in 2008 requires FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, and Ohio’s other electric utilities to find at least 25 percent of their power from renewables such as wind and solar or advanced sources such as fuel cells and advanced nuclear by 2025.
The law also mandated utilities to reduce electricity consumption by 22 percent during the same period.
Utilities must meet annual benchmarks on their way to meeting the longer-term goals, but those benchmarks will not climb in 2015 or 2016. Assuming the escalation resumes in 2017, the full compliance date would be pushed back to 2027.
Pew created a Clean Energy Business Network to promote green energy as a boost to the economy and to reduce national security risks. But Lynn Abramson, the network’s senior associate, said the clean energy business leaders involved in the network did not finance the study.
It was financed by the nonpartisan trust originally set up by the Pew family, founders of the Sun Oil Cos., or Sunoco, she said.
“At its peak, Ohio had 62 manufacturing facilities producing wind energy components, and that was the most of any state …,” Ms. Abramson said. “But many of the manufacturers are starting to leave the industry because of some of the uncertainty we’re seeing in the policies which have dampened the local market.
“In 2012, Ohio installed 313 megawatts of new wind projects and attracted $563 million in investment,” she said. “That amounted to 13th in the nation. The following year, in 2013, the state installed no new wind projects …”
Those in the wind industry also have cited a separate law that expanded the property setback requirements for wind farms, including those in Van Wert and Paulding counties.
“For all intents and purposes, the wind industry is dead in Ohio,” said Alan R. Frasz, president of Dovetail Solar and Wind, an Athens, Ohio-based solar and wind system installer with an office in Toledo.