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Economy and Business


Ohio appeals to be on a fast track towards freezing energy standards
Akron-based FirstEnergy is one of the chief opponents of the standards; lawmakers say they need a breather to evaluate the standards
by WKSU's ANDY CHOW


Reporter
Andy Chow
 
Proponents say the standards have been key to the boom in Ohio's renewable energy business.
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In The Region:

An industry expert says a bill on the fast track in the General Assembly could impact thousands of jobs and force many companies out of Ohio. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow has more on the major energy debate on Capitol Square.

LISTEN: Fast-track to change efficiency standards

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Lawmakers are considering a bill that would halt a state law passed in 2008 requiring that 25 percent of electricity sold in Ohio will be coming from renewable and alternative energy sources by 2025. But the CEO of a group that represents about 400 advanced and renewable energy companies is very worried about it.

“S.B. 310 will be a landmark mistake that we will live to regret,” says Ted Ford, the president and CEO of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy. He says the new bill, which freezes the state’s efficiency and renewable standards, will force many companies to either close or move out of Ohio.

“We’ve had tremendous amount of investment in Ohio as a result of those standards, and that investment’s going to go someplace else. So it’s a very bad bill that sets Ohio back. We’re basically pulling the rug out from under people who’ve made investments and small companies that are in this industry.”

A breather or a stealth repeal?
Senate Republicans, including its sponsor Sen. Troy Balderson of Zanesville, have repeatedly said that this freeze is needed for the state to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the standards. But opponents, such as Ford, say it’s essentially a repeal disguised as a freeze.

The question at the heart of this issue is whether or not government mandated standards for utilities drive up electric bills for ratepayers. Ford says “no.”

“The benefits that are received in terms of lower costs are four-times the cost of the riders, so you’re going to see stuff go up and that’s really the point. The utilities would like to see electricity rates go up. They would like to make more money off their core product.”

Will costs go up?
Riders are attached to electric bills to help finance energy-efficiency projects. Sam Randazzo is with Industrial Energy Users Ohio which represents big and small companies such as McDonald’s and Marathon Refinery. He says these riders will continue to add more costs to electric bills based on declining energy use.

“So as customers reduce their kilowatt hour consumption, and as they expect to see a bill decline, what happens is the math in each of these riders works basically to raise the price.”

Randazzo questions Ford’s argument relating to the cost-benefit.

“They assert that for every dollar we save $4. If the advantage of energy efficiency is as they characterize it, then why does the government need to compel customers to pursue it?”

The bill appears to be on the fast track to the governor’s desk. Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican from Celina, hopes to have it passed by May. Republican House Speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina echoed the same goal.

The Ohio Manufacturers Association, a major opponent to the Senate’s last energy overhaul plan, continues to look over the proposed freeze and has not come out with a formal stance on the new bill.

 

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