December 8, 2013

Ohio Energy Fight Nearing End as Senate Bill 58 Comes Up for Committee Vote

The battle over Senate Bill 58 could come to a head Wednesday morning when an Ohio Senate committee may vote on moving the hotly debated piece of energy legislation on to the full Senate.

Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, is expected to introduce a substitute version of the bill, which would alter the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards enacted by state lawmakers in 2008. The matter will be considered by the Senate Public Utilities Committee chaired by Seitz.

Seitz has said the economic projections behind the energy standards have been proven wrong. Without changes, he said he fears electric bills will jump in coming years.

Lobbying for and against the bill has been intense, and it continued Monday with salvos from both sides of the debate.

A coalition of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business Ohio, Ohio Steel Council, Industrial Energy Users, Ohio Energy Group, Greater Cleveland Partnership and Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber urged the Ohio Senate to pass Senate Bill 58. They claim the law created costly mandates for energy efficiency and renewable energy as well as regulatory burdens for Ohio’s businesses.

The group said S.B. 58 makes changes ensuring that businesses are paying reasonable costs for electricity while striving to become more energy efficient and promoting a diverse energy portfolio.

“Ohio’s businesses – large and small – are collectively paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually for energy efficiency programs designed to meet (the state’s) aggressive mandates,” said the Ohio Chamber’s Charlotte Hickcox in a press release. “We’re concerned that as the compliance requirements rise in the coming years, so will the costs borne by businesses and consumers alike.”

Meanwhile, S.B. 58 opponents ran radio ads that urged listeners to tell their state senator to vote against the bill. On that side of the argument is a coalition that includes the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, Mom’s Clean Air Force and National Wildlife Federation.

Ted Ford, CEO of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, told me his group took the lead on running the radio ads statewide to let people know just how bad S.B. 58 is.

“We’ve been working on this since last spring,” he said, “and had no opportunity to fairly sit down and offer amendments. We felt we needed to go to consumers to tell them what this is about.”

As I’ve reported, Ford’s group fears changes affecting in-state mandates for renewables such as wind and solar power will be a setback for Ohio’s developing renewable energy economy, including companies whose work is tied to advanced energy products and services.

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