May 4, 2016
As some of you know, I have the privilege of serving as a member of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy (OAEE). We’re a coalition of businesses who advocate for the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. We come together with a common voice when urgent issues arise in the state legislature or US Congress that affect our industry, and April 2016 has given us our most important task in the past two years.
New legislation was introduced last week by Senator Bill Seitz (R-suburban Cincinnati): a bill that would extend the freeze that took away the energy efficiency and renewable energy mandates in Ohio in 2014. The current freeze, a result of Senate Bill 310, is due to expire on December 31st. We in the energy efficiency business have been looking forward to the lifting of the freeze like Ohioans look forward to the end of winter: SB310 has resulted in a sharp drop-off in new investment in the Ohio clean energy economy for the past two years. Now, Senator Seitz, who brought SB310 to the floor in 2013, is attempting to further delay the return of the mandates for another 3 years, furthering the bleak investment outlook for Ohio.
My fellow business leaders at OAEE and I support the mandates, and we want them to return.
When the mandates became law in 2009, they required our four Ohio investor owned utilities—AEP, First Energy, DP&L and Duke–to meet specific goals in energy efficiency and renewable energy. One way they accomplished this was by offering rebates to customers who reduced their electricity consumption through efficiency projects. This was important because the demand on our electric grid grows roughly 3% on average each year, and the mandates were intended to offset this growth so we wouldn’t have to build new base load power plants that rely on coal and nuclear fuel. We could instead move forward in a more responsible way by integrating cleaner energy sources and renewable energy technologies into our fuel mix, and we would be saving on carbon emissions at the same time.
SB310 changed all that by suspending the mandates, and Senator Seitz’s new bill–SB320–would take us further down the unsustainable path we find ourselves on today. Ohio energy consumers will have to wait years before we have even a chance of seeing the restart of our state’s clean energy industry.
Last week, we had the opportunity to speak with Azim Haque, Commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and Craig Butler, Director of the Ohio EPA in Columbus to advocate against extending the freeze. Our meetings were encouraging: Commissioner Haque and Mr. Butler were open to discussing a realistic path forward toward a cleaner energy economy and a more competitive market for our state.
It’s the beginning of what we hope will be a fruitful conversation about a path to clean energy without extending a counterproductive freeze, but it’s far from over. We could very well have another 3 years of winter if Ohio energy consumers who support renewables and energy efficiency aren’t heard. Senate Bill 320 affects all of us, and opposing it is important. Please consider reaching out to your senator and representative and tell them what you think. You can find the right person to contact here https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/