September 12, 2011

Ohio renewable energy law in danger

Ohio's mandate that utilities find a quarter of their power from renewable and advanced technology sources by 2025 would become a thing of the past under a bill introduced this week.

State Sen. Kris Jordan (R., Powell) has proposed stripping the requirement from Ohio's 2008 rewrite of energy law. The bill has two Republican co-sponsors from the Cleveland and Cincinnati areas.
"With one of the worst recessions in recent memory still fresh in our minds, the last thing we need to do in Ohio is drive up the cost of energy for both Ohio families and Ohio businesses, and that's exactly what the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard does," Mr. Jordan said.

Under current law, half of the mandate, 12.5 percent, must come from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and landfill gases. The parallel "advanced" source component refers to such things as nuclear, fuel cells, and cleaner-coal technology.

Removal of the mandate could have an impact on northwest Ohio, where a new solar panel industry has been at least partly banking on the generation of an internal market for its product. Solar was the only source of renewable power to receive a special carve-out in the bill, requiring that at least half a percentage point of the renewable standard must come from power generated by solar panels.

Most of the electricity used in Ohio comes from coal.

"I think it is Neanderthal thinking, quite frankly, to try to turn back the clock on something that's having a very positive impact on Ohio's economy right now," former Gov. Ted Strickland said. "Investments are being made. Jobs are being created. This [bill] is almost irrational in my judgment."
Ohio Sen. Kris Jordan (R., Powell) Ohio Sen. Kris Jordan (R., Powell) Enlarge

The fate of Ohio's energy law has been a question mark since last year's gubernatorial election. Mr. Strickland, a Democrat, considered it one of his most significant accomplishments in office, citing the development of solar research and related businesses in the Toledo area as well as promises of development of solar panel fields, wind farms, and garbage-fueled steam plants, some of which have become or are becoming reality.

Republican Gov. John Kasich generally voiced support for the standards during the campaign while also raising concerns that they would increase energy costs. The current law contains a provision that caps any increased costs tied to the alternative energy standards at 3 percent.

Spokesman Rob Nichols declined to comment directly on Senate Bill 216.

"The governor does not oppose the renewable standards, but he believes we need to think globally and in a comprehensive way about how we use energy policy to create jobs in this state so that we have clean, affordable, and reliable energy sources for industry," he said.

Mr. Kasich will host an energy summit Sept. 21 and 22 at Ohio State University. The agenda includes a spectrum of issues, including the role of wind, solar, and coal-generated power. Everything is on the table for discussion, including the renewable standards.

"Ohio is the second-largest solar manufacturer in North America, due to the very law that Senator Jordan wants to repeal," said Brian Kaiser of the Ohio Environmental Council. "His decision to attack one of the few parts of Ohio's economy that is working is a direct assault on all Ohioans who care about job growth and the environment."

Mr. Jordan suggested the focus on "green energy" jobs has been misplaced. "Studies show that in countries such as Spain, similar efforts have led to the destruction of 2.2 jobs in other sectors for every one of these 'green jobs' created," he said. "Ohioans deserve our best efforts to lower energy costs for all consumers, and a positive environment for job creators to move Ohio's economy forward, and this bill does just that."

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