On March 21, the national business group, Advanced Energy Economy, testified before Ohio’s House Public Utilities Committee hearing on House Bill 114 – a bill that AEE said “is considered worse for the advanced energy industry than House Bill 554,” which was vetoed Governor John. Kasich (R) last year.
According to AEE, HB114 would be a job-killer in Ohio, depriving the state of $10 billion in advanced energy market opportunities created by reinstatement of the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards January 1, as a result of the Governor’s veto.
The law currently demands that by 2026, 12.5 percent of the power sold must be from renewables, The Plain Dealer reported on March 7. However, the standards under this proposed legislation would be completely voluntary and there would be no penalties for companies that choose not to sell green power. The bill eliminates all fines since the standards would become voluntary benchmarks. And in 2026, even the voluntary benchmarks would disappear from the law.
Among other things, the 73-page bill, sponsored by State Representative Louis B. Blessing (R-District 29), would:
- Allow both commercial and industrial customers (instead of just the latter) to opt out of utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs;
- Allow any customer who has signed a contract with an independent power company to avoid paying the delivery company any extra charges for green power;
- Make voluntary the mandates that now require power companies to generate or buy and sell a percentage of power from wind, solar, and other renewable technologies;
- Instead, leave it up to each power company to decide what percentage of the power it sells is generated by renewable technologies such as wind and solar; and
- Continue the rules on renewable energy credits (RECs), but effectively kill the value of such credits in future years;
“After a strong signal from Gov. Kasich that Ohio is open for business in advanced energy, it is unfortunate that the House is trying to rush through legislation that will send exactly the opposite signal,” said Ray Fakhoury, State Policy associate at AEE. “HB 114 is being offered as an economic benefit to Ohio, but it’s not. HB 114 is a job-killer that will also cost consumers on their electric bills.”
Indeed, the Plain Dealer reported, hundreds of companies either are involved in the development of wind or solar energy in Ohio, or are suppliers to the renewables industry. The northwest area of Ohio is home to the majority of the wind turbines in the state, but developers there have been worried about the direction Ohio is taking when it comes to renewable energy.
“As a major employer in northwest Ohio and a center of solar technology innovation, we oppose HB114,” said Mike Koralewski, SVP of Global Manufacturing at First Solar. “Our Perrysburg facility is the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturing site in the United States. House Bill 114 would be a step backward for Ohio, making it more difficult to leverage increasingly competitive, locally manufactured utility-scale solar projects that customers, large and small, demand in greater numbers every year.”
The American Wind Energy Association Director of Eastern State Policy Andrew Gohn commented, ““By rapidly advancing this bill, the Ohio House is needlessly jeopardizing jobs, private investment and rural development potential that wind energy has demonstrated in Ohio and across the nation. Ohio is the beating heart of wind power manufacturing, with 62 active factories, more than any other state. Keeping the RPS in place will keep these businesses healthy and Ohio competitive with other states that are choosing to expand their own RPS policies.”
He pointed out that wind power already has generated nearly 3,000 jobs and $900 million in wind project investment in Ohio – numbers that he said would grow, as the RPS remains in place.
Neighboring states have seen even larger investment figures. Michigan, which recently chose to expand its RPS, has attracted $3 billion in private investment in wind energy projects. Other neighbors, Indiana and Pennsylvania, have seen $4 billion and $2.7 billion in private investment respectively, according to AWEA.
The House leadership has said that the legislation will move ahead because it has a “veto-proof majority,” meaning that it would be able to override a veto by Kasich.