I write in response to Columbus Business First’s March 2 article about a poll showing that conservative voters back green energy policies.
The article begins with the assertion that conservatives in Ohio favor clean energy policies, and accuses the Republican legislature of engaging in efforts to water down or kill renewable energy rules.
It also cites a poll showing that 85 percent of conservative voters are willing to pay more for their electricity if it is sourced from renewable energy sources.
The article, like others that have contributed to the spin initiated by the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, also indicates that Ohio’s mandates that favor particular supply or demand side technologies at the expense of captive electric customers need to be maintained to curry favor with the likes of Amazon.
I offer a different perspective.
In 2001, Ohio implemented legislation giving most retail electric customers in the state the right to act on their own electric generation supply preferences. They can exercise this right as an individual customer or through buying or aggregation groups. This right is not available to customers in most other states. Pennsylvania is the only adjacent state where customers have a similar right.
This right is also not available to the customers of Ohio’s municipal electric utilities like those in Westerville and Columbus. (Perhaps this is something that the Columbus Partnership and Columbus 2020 might want to work on to help their Amazon campaign.)
Since 2001, if a retail electric customer in Ohio wants to obtain all of their generation supply from renewable sources, they can do so. And if they are willing to pay more for the renewable supply, they are free to do that as well. Ohio’s mandates compel customers who may have other preferences to nonetheless pay for renewable supply regardless of how much it costs. And Ohio’s investor owned utilities have used their role in the mandate compliance process to get hefty bonuses (also paid by captive customers) that further increase bills.
Ohio’s mandates are anticompetitive and anti-consumer. If the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum’s poll is correct, then Ohio’s customer-choice platform gives Amazon and most other Ohio retail electric customers complete control over their generation supply outcome without impinging on the price and technology preferences of their neighbors.
The article also makes a pitch for modifying Ohio’s minimum setback requirements that must be met by developers of large wind farms. This pitch is based on claims made by wind farm developers who assert that the minimum setbacks are blocking investment in Ohio.
It is true that Ohio modified the minimum setback requirements in 2014. But the modification did not increase the minimum setback requirements. Instead, the modification required that the minimum setback distance be measured from the adjoining property line just like setbacks are measured in the case of all other land use regulation schemes. This change better respects the property rights and interests of non-participating owners of property adjoining a wind farm project.
Under current Ohio law, these non-participating property owners can agree to allow the wind farm developer to evade the minimum setback requirements by executing waivers.
Thus, current Ohio law requires wind farm developers to negotiate with adjoining property owners in cases where the developer wants relief from the minimum setback requirements.
Rather than respect the rights of these adjoining property owners, wind farm developers and their friends at the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum want Ohio to compel these property owners to, in effect and without compensation, provide the wind farm developer with an easement that subjects the adjoining property and anybody located on that property to the fire, ice throw, blade sheer, shadow flicker, noise and other risks attendant to the construction and operation of industrial size wind farms.
I hope this information is useful.
Sam Randazzo is a partner at McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC and general counsel for Industrial Energy Users-Ohio.
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