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Government and Politics


Many witnesses testify on Ohio bill to freeze renewable energy standards
Ohio is one of the first states to consider setting aside the standards, and is nearing a decision
by WKSU's ANDY CHOW


Reporter
Andy Chow
 
Bill Seitz' bill to freeze the Ohio standards is nearing a vote.
Courtesy of Ohio Statehouse
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In The Region:
Many advocates and interest groups are lining up to voice their opinions on a bill that would drastically change the energy landscape in Ohio. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow caught the back-and-forth between opponents and supporters of what’s being called the energy standards freeze bill.
LISTEN: Debate over the energy standards freeze bill

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In what could be the last Senate committee meeting before a vote, many witnesses lined up to testify both for and against a measure that would freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards.

The standards were created by a law in 2008. It calls on utilities to get 25 percent of their energy from renewable and alternative sources by 2025. It also sets a benchmark of 22 percent energy savings by the same year.

Those favoring the freeze echoed previously mentioned talking points including the belief that the standards will drive up everyone’s electric bills over the years.

Home-grown energy businesses
Opponents urged that a freeze, among other things, would drastically damage the alternative energy market. Dan Litchfield represents several wind farms in Ohio. He was questioned by Republican Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, who chairs the committee.

“Why, why can’t you sell your power competitively with all the other forms of power? There’s nothing in [S.B.]310 that prohibits you from doing that is there?”

Litchfield agreed to a certain extent but added later that the current standards are helpful in encouraging investment in renewable energy.

“The law as written certainly encourages others. ... It certainly would increase the likelihood that projects go forward and the investments happen.”

“It does more than encourage it, doesn’t it? It mandates it.”

“It doesn’t mandate that it buys from us—it mandates that there’s a market that we compete into.”

Akron's FirstEnergy pushes back
Akron-based FirstEnergy has been vocal in calling for a change to the standards. The utility supported a bill last year that would have been a major overhaul to the benchmark policies and now stands as a proponent to the freeze. Doug Colafella, a spokesman with the company, agrees that a freeze doesn’t mean utilities can’t seek alternative energy sources independently.

“So the market has taken off. The marketplace is providing the products and services that our customers are asking for. So the question becomes: Do we continue to need mandates when customers are adopting these products with much enthusiasm?”

Through his questions to witnesses, Democratic Sen. Eric Kearney of Cincinnati suggested there’s an economic benefit to the standards and incentivized alternative energy use, and said he felt a different approach was needed.

“What is the middle way? What is the way to compromise? What balances out this new investment that we get — that we’re benefiting from — wind, solar, geothermal, all this other stuff — and the concerns of these people and everyone keeps telling me well either we shouldn’t compromise or there are no new ideas out there.”

A complex issue
Seitz replied to Kearney’s comments recognizing these standards as a complex issue, noting that the committee has been working on this for a year and a half.

The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association were major opponents to the last bill to overhaul the policies. Now both groups are joining forces to continue showing support for the standards but also calling on changes to the original law.

The groups say the utilities have too much power in certain cases and that must be reformed to protect consumers.

Some observers seem to think the bill could move out of committee in the next week or two.

Listener Comments:

I signed on to receive my electric energy from wind power via AEPS over a year ago. In light of climate change, clean renewable energy vs. finite and carbon heavy coal and shale gas..there isn't a rational choice other than renewable energy and energy efficiencies.

Ohio could be a real leader in renewable energy and sustainable long term job creation IF it embraced new green technologies instead of coal and shale gas.

Lets do something good for the future of Ohio. Let the standards stand and work toward exceeding those standards already in place instead of holding us in the dark ages of fossil fuel extraction and use rendering Ohio a place not fit to raise our families in.


Posted by: Marcia WOlff (Akron Ohio) on May 2, 2014 6:05AM
The AEPS has been an economic boon for Ohio manufacturing and clean energy. Thanks in part to these standards, over $1 billion has been invested in the state’s clean energy sector. Freezing the AEPS threatens this incredible success story and all the jobs and opportunity it creates.

The wind power supply chain helps provide up to 3,000 manufacturing, construction and support jobs to Ohioans. With public opinion increasingly in favor of expanding the state’s clean energy portfolio, wind power stands to contribute significantly to Ohio’s economy, and in tough times, that’s great news.

Wind power is reliable, immune to fuel price shocks, and helps keep costs low for consumers. The AEPS can be a vital catalyst, attracting more private investment and opening the door to efficient, innovative technologies. A study conducted Ohio grid operator PJM found that by obtaining 30 percent of their electricity from wind, they would save $15 billion a year. Those savings pass on to ratepayers.

One state wind facility with 150 turbines gives $2.7 million a year in payments to local taxing bodies, stimulating growth and revitalizing communities.

Ohio counts among its ranks 62 manufacturing facilities in the wind power supply chain, more than any other state. The Buckeye state plays a critical role in building what has become a homegrown American manufacturing sector. By keeping the AEPS in place, we can ensure this story will continue.

Peebles Squire
American Wind Energy Association


Posted by: Peebles Squire (Washington, DC) on May 1, 2014 4:05AM
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