Ohio Bows to Fossil Fuel Interests: Freezes Renewable Portfolio Standard

Ohio holds the dubious distinction of being the first state to bow to fossil fuel interests’ attack on renewable energy.

Governor Kasich says he will sign Senate Bill 310 into law, freezing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). Both houses in the state’s legislature passed the bill, mostly along party lines (after passing it in 2008 almost unanimously). 

The move gives Kasich’s Democratic challenger an opening since he is campaigning strongly for renewable energy.

"As the rest of the country is moving forward on energy efficiency and independence, Ohio is moving backwards," says Rep. Robert Hagan (D-Youngstown). "Reversing our Renewable Portfolio Standard is completely irrational, and unfortunately Ohio consumers and businesses are the victims of the absurdity." This "threatens Ohio jobs and potential future investment in green technology. We are on the precipice of destroying our environment and climate."

Here’s what the bill does: 

Ohio’s RPS requires utilities to use 12.5% renewable energy by 2025 with 0.5% from solar. The new law freezes it at current levels – 2.5% renewables and 0.12% solar – until 2017 while a committee decides its fate. If new legislation hasn’t passed by then, the RPS goes back into effect.

The RPS also mandates that half the requirement be met from sources in-state, critical to growing Ohio’s renewable energy industry and jobs. Even if the RPS returns in 2017, SB310 opens the market completely, allowing all renewable energy to be sourced out-of-state.

And it allows utilities to opt out of the EERS, which requires them to help customers use 22% less energy by 2025.

It Just Costs Too Much … Really? 

Proponents of the bill say the RPS and EERS aren’t achievable in addition to the typical anti-renewables line – it will lead to much higher electricity prices.

"I think some people really believe in this green stuff," House Speaker William Batchelder (R-Medina), told The Columbus Dispatch. "That’s fine. But somebody’s going to have to answer to the public as this additional expense gets added on."

Kasich is, of course, a member of ALEC. So are key legislators that pushed the bill forward through 20 hours of debate, such as Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati). 

ALEC

And then there’s the Heartland Institute, which says the bill is "a small step in the right direction for Ohio and a much bigger step in the national conversation over these costly policies."

But that’s in contrast to the facts: since the RPS passed in 2008, it’s brought $1 billion in private investment to the state, saved $1 billion on electric bills and created 25,000 jobs in 400 new businesses, says the Natural Resources Defense Council. 180,000 homes are now powered by wind and the air is cleaner, with 40,000 tons less of sulfur dioxide, 9,000 tons of nitrogen oxide, and 1,000 pounds of mercury every year, says Ohio Environmental Council.

Without the RPS, Ohio families will pay $109 more for electricity in the next two years, and businesses could see hikes of as much as $30,000.

Even when renewables produced just 1% of Ohio’s energy, the state’s Public Utilities Commission found that rather than raising energy prices, the 1000+ projects stabilized the price of wholesale power in the state.  

On the efficiency side, the EERS is expected to save ratepayers $5.7 billion by 2020. In the first year alone, utilities saved over 530,000 megawatt-hours, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

Ohio’s biggest utility, FirstEnergy, wanted the rules frozen because they cut its profits.

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