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Environment


Freeze on efficiency, renewable standards passes Ohio's Senate
The Ohio House will now look at a new plan to freeze Ohio's green-energy standards
by WKSU's ANDY CHOW


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Andy Chow
 
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A measure to overhaul Ohio’s energy policies is on its way to the House after the Senate held an early morning vote Thursday. Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow has been following this issue and has more on the latest changes to the bill.

LISTEN: Ohio House to take up renewable energy standards.

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All day affair
After a long day of meetings and a session that went late into the night, the Ohio Senate passed a new energy bill that would freeze the state’s efficiency renewable standards for two years.

The fact that it moves on to the House is a milestone in itself. The Senate has been working on this issue for a year and a half.

History of renewable energy standards
The standards were created by law in 2008. They set benchmarks for utilities to achieve a certain amount of energy efficiency and use a certain amount of renewable sources by 2025.

Republican senators, like Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, have said these standards are leading to higher electric costs for consumers. Since the start of 2013, proposed changes to the standards have taken many forms from a complete overhaul of the policies to an indefinite freeze.

Review to be conducted of impact on consumers
The legislation that the Senate passed very early Thursday morning kept the freeze of the standards pending a review of their impact on costs to consumers. Only now, if the General Assembly doesn’t act, those standards start back up in 2017.

Seitz, who spoke on the Senate floor, says he has nothing against efficiency and renewable energy.

“But what this bill is about is mandates," Seitz said. "They like to talk about standards—standards—sounds so nice it’s a standard. It’s not a standards it’s a mandate—whether you want to pay or not—you pay.”

Kearney opposed to freeze
Democratic Senator Eric Kearney of Cincinnati has been vocally opposed to a straight up freeze of the standards and wants to find a way to keep the benchmarks while still studying the costs.

“While the rest of the United States and most parts of the world are moving towards embracing a more diverse energy portfolio in the opposite direction,” Kearney said.

Changes by the senate
The Senate made more changes to the bill in the past week after reports that Gov. John Kasich was threatening a veto.

A recently added provision would’ve let consumers opt out of their utility’s efficiency program if it started costing them too much. According to Seitz, Kasich urged the Senate to remove that language and did so, but not without debate.

“The consumer opt out provision was in my opinion one of the best parts of the bill cause what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna tell everybody in Ohio what they’re paying for these mandates and if they’re paying more than 3% of the generation side of their bill’s cost in mandates—every consumer—every consumer in Ohio could write a letter to their friendly local utility company and say ‘I don’t want to pay it anymore thank you very much,” Seitz said.

Freeze could hurt alternative energy business
Ted Ford is with Advanced Energy Economy Ohio which represents more than 400 alternative energy companies. He says this freeze on the standards will drive business away.

“Because it’s still a big question mark of whether or not they’re still in play and a lot of that investment which is planned at the moment—something in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion in projects ready to go," Ford said. "That money will go someplace else.”

Standards could keep companies from moving to Ohio
On the other hand, Republican Senate President Keith Faber said keeping the standards might be unattractive to companies thinking about moving to Ohio.

The bill now goes to the House where the speaker has said he’d like to pass it by the end of the month.

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