June 17, 2014

Ohio State Laws Clash with Federal Energy Guidelines

Ohio is ranked fifth in the nation in energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Proposed EPA guidelines could pose a unique problem for Ohio, as a federal plan to cut carbon pollution from power plants arrives at the same time as a state law to freeze emissions standards.

Last week, the EPA announced its proposed Clean Power Plan that aims to, by 2030, cut carbon emissions from power plants nationwide by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

The plan sets state-specific emissions goals — Ohio must cut pollution by 28 percent from its 2012 levels — and charges states with drafting a plan on how to meet those goals.

The state is ranked fifth in the nation in energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But clean energy advocates say that state legislation could limit Ohio’s ability to meet guidelines and might drive alternative energy businesses beyond state borders.

Last month, the state legislature passed Ohio Senate bill 310, a proposed law that would freeze for two years the renewable energy standards that electric utilities are required to meet. During the freeze, lawmakers would form a committee to review the standards.

In 2014, utilities must get 2.5 percent of their electric supply from renewable resources. The bill would maintain those standards for 2015 and 2016. When standards resume in 2017, they’ll start at the previous 2015 requirement of 3.5 percent. The bill would push back Ohio’s ultimate goal of requiring utilities to get 12.5 percent of their electric supply from renewable resources (0.5 percent from solar) two years to 2026.

Among other changes to the renewable energy standards, the bill also eliminates a requirement that half of renewable energy must be sourced from within the state.

Governor John Kasich is expected to sign the bill, which has passed both the House and the Senate. If he signs this week, we’ll have to change this sentence.

Supporters, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, say the bill will protect jobs and shield employers from rising compliance costs.

Because of the bill, Ohio is now trying to meet EPA guidelines with one hand tied behind its back, said Steve Frenkel, Midwest director for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“By rolling back the state’s clean energy standards, it really puts Ohio in a more difficult position when it comes to complying with the federal carbon rule,” he said.

The EPA identified four ways states can cut emissions:

• Make current fossil fuel plants more efficient.
• Use low-emitting power sources more — natural gas instead of coal, for example.
• Use more zero or low-emitting power sources, like renewable wind and solar power.
• Use electricity more efficiently, reducing the demand on power plants.

Ohio has essentially eliminated the renewable power option from the mix, likely leading the state to trade burning coal for burning natural gas, Frankel said.

“If you just simply switch coal to natural gas, you’re really just trading dependence on one fossil fuel for another that has climate risks and price risks associated with it,” he said.

Last year, Ohio got 69 percent of its net electricity generation from coal, 15 percent from natural gas and 12 percent from nuclear energy, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The bill will “absolutely kill the demand for solar renewable energy credits. It will absolutely stop any forward progress on any future projects that we do in the state,” said Steve Melink, president of Melink Corporation, a Milford, Ohio-based green energy company.

The company instead will have to look to other states to complete projects, taking jobs and tax dollars out of the state, he said.

“This effectively means Ohio is closed to business for clean energy investment,” he said.

But local renewable energy companies had a brighter outlook.

The majority of solar and wind energy business is from customers who want to lower their utilities bills, not meet state guidelines, said Sam Courtney, co-owner of Wind Turbines of Ohio in Alliance, which installs wind and solar energy systems.

“My average customer is more concerned with saving money than with what law is passed,” he said.
Most people are attracted to wind or solar power because the investment pays for itself in about eight years and lasts for much longer than that, he said.

While customers are sometimes moving to alternative energy for environmental concerns, most of the time they’re looking to see what makes sense economically for their home or business, and hedging against rising utilities costs in the future, he said.

The company, and its peers, are pretty busy right now with projects, especially from colleges and government buildings, he said.

If new guidelines or laws mean more business, especially for large commercial projects, that’s not a bad thing.

“If those jobs become available we’d love to have them,” he said, adding that increased workload would mean adding more jobs.

No comments:

Post a Comment