VAN WERT – Is requiring utilities to generate a specified amount of energy from alternative and advanced resources by the year 2025 a good plan? The two sides to the argument each generated answers on Wednesday. A legislative panel, The Energy Mandates Study Committee, released a report Wednesday saying that the law should not be continued. Meanwhile Susan Munroe, president/CEO of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement asking Gov. John Kasich and policymakers to remember how important these investments are to communities like Van Wert, which is home to wind energy facilities.
Government requirements for the use of solar, wind and other forms of renewable energy by Ohio power companies would be suspended indefinitely under recommendations being prepared for release Wednesday by a legislative panel.
The panel is reviewing an Ohio law requiring utilities to generate 25 percent of electricity from alternative and advanced sources by 2025. It was created as part of a compromise brokered by Gov. John Kasich amid efforts to repeal the targets outright.
The report cites legal uncertainty and a need for “greater clarity” surrounding proposed federal clean coal rules among reasons that proceeding with Ohio’s state-level mandates would be imprudent.
Ohio is among states that have sued over the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which sets targets for carbon dioxide emissions for existing power plants as a means of reducing emissions from 2005 levels by 32 percent by 2030. Kasich has also written to President Barack Obama asking him to hold off on implementing the plan until questions are resolved by the courts.
“The US EPA, by promulgation of the proposed CPP, seeks to change the energy landscape significantly across the United States,” the report states.
Proponents argue that Ohio’s targets were creating jobs and benefiting the environment before they were frozen, and would continue to do so if allowed to proceed.
Democratic members of the Republican-controlled study committee, Sens. Capri Cafaro and Sandra Williams, urged the governor in a letter from their caucus released Tuesday to fight for the mandates to be reinstated.
“Allowing the clean energy industry to prosper could result in better products, a healthier population, cheaper prices, and more jobs over time,” they wrote.
Samantha Williams, attorney and energy policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said Ohio’s momentum as “a clean energy trailblazer” has stalled.
“Any policies that block progress to regain Ohio’s leadership will only grow the mountain of missed opportunities and keep the state lagging behind its neighbors that are moving forward with clean energy to create jobs, boost their economy and protect public health,” she said in a statement.
Republican Sen. Bill Seitz, a member of the study committee and advocate for earlier repeal efforts, said Ohio’s “march up Mandate Mountain” needs to be curtailed indefinitely. He said setting a specific timeline for extending the freeze – say, for one or two years – doesn’t allow enough flexibility to await court rulings and clarifications from the federal government.
Munroe disagrees.“We want our elected officials to know that local chambers of commerce, particularly those of us in the wind corridor, know how important these investments are to rural Ohio communities,” said Susan Munroe, President and CEO of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, and member of the Advisory Council of Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE). Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy (CICE) is a national network of local chambers of commerce that recognize the economic development opportunities of clean energy.
“Our county was struggling before wind energy came to our community,” Munroe said. Then, in 2011, Iberdrola Renewables invested $600 million in the Blue Creek Wind Farm—the single largest investment in the state that year.
Today, Munroe added, the Blue Creek Wind Farm pays Van Wert $2 million annually in local payments in lieu of taxes and nearly as much in landowner lease payments—with public schools being the primary beneficiaries.
In another project, Apex Clean Energy acquired the rights to develop the Long Prairie Wind Farm in Van Wert—a project that could deliver $800 to 900 million to the county.
“Apex is ready to go. They’re ready to invest. They’re just waiting on Ohio to get it together,” said Munroe.
“That’s more than $1 billion in prospective investments in our county from renewable energy,” she added. “Let’s not lose this staggering economic development and job growth opportunity to another state due to legislative uncertainty. We look to our governor and policymakers to protect these investments for us.”
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