May 11, 2016

Lawmakers reignite debate on future of Ohio renewable energy standards

Tom Knox, Reporter | Columbus Business First | May 11, 2016 |

Both chambers of the Ohio legislature are scheduled to hear initial testimony on bills to repeal or scale back the state’s renewable energy standards.

Rep. Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster, introduced House Bill 554 this week, which was slated for a committee hearing late Wednesday morning. The bill would effectively repeal mandates for electricity producers to generate a rising amount of their power via alternative and renewable energy sources like wind and solar. It would keep renewable energy standards level where they are now, as a 2.5 percent share.

Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, introduced Senate Bill 320 two weeks ago. Scheduled for its first hearing before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources committee Wednesday afternoon, the bill would freeze the standards for another three years. Seitz told Columbus Business First the extension is needed to suss out what happens with the federal Clean Power Plan.

Two years ago Gov. John Kasich signed the initial bill to indefinitely freeze the standards. Since then a legislative committee recommended making the freeze indefinite, but Kasich called an indefinite freeze “unacceptable.”

The unpredictably is not a boon to utilities or renewable energy providers who just want to know where the state stands. Environmental groups opposed to the freeze see Kasich’s campaign-trail comments as a boon.

“Gov. Kasich has been unequivocal that any extension of the freeze is just ‘kicking the can down the road’ and will be vetoed,” Sam Williams, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. “Why are we wasting time discussing these bills that have no chance of being signed into law?”

Wind energy group A Renewable America plans to issue a new report Thursday showing “cost saving benefits for consumers of ending the freeze on the standards.”

Seitz wants to pass a bill soon because the renewable standards will resume in 2017 if nothing new happens. If a bill isn’t passed now but is this fall, the three-month window for bills to go into effect could lead to an odd window where the standards resume for a few days or weeks until they’re again re-frozen or repealed.

A 2008 energy bill included a requirement that utilities annually up the amount of power generated using renewables, eventually hitting 12.5 percent. At least a half-percent of that would come from solar. ( Read more about the requirements at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio).

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