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Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards: Another Battle Won, but Opponents Vow to Fight On

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Clean energy supporters in Ohio marked an important victory this month when Senate Bill 58 (SB58) — which would have gutted Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards and handed utilities potentially billions of dollars in undeserved profits — failed to come up for a vote in the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee. But clean energy opponents in Ohio are already planning their next rounds of misguided attacks.

Thousands of Ohioans, accompanied by a diverse coalition of businesses, manufacturers, and nonprofit organizations, rallied to oppose the bill, which had been sponsored by Ohio Senator William Seitz.

UCS was actively engaged in this effort. We rallied our network of supporters to deliver a statement signed by more than 30 Ohio experts and a petition signed by more than 1,200 concerned citizens in support of Ohio’s clean energy standards. UCS also submitted testimony to both the Senate and House Committees on how clean energy is delivering benefits to Ohio and the critical role that Ohio’s clean energy standards play in driving clean energy investments. After months of hearings, the Ohio Senate Republican Caucus finally, and wisely, decided to table the bill despite relentless lobbying on the part of FirstEnergy and Senator Seitz.

Map of state where attacks on clean energy standards have been unsuccessful

Ohio can now be added to the map of states where attacks on clean energy standards have been unsuccessful to date. Source: washingtonpost.com.

Ohio now joins more than a dozen other states in rejecting attempts by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to weaken or repeal clean energy standards.

Senator Seitz is a member of ALEC’s board of directors and as chair of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, provides a venue for misguided attacks on Ohio’s clean energy standards. Fortunately, there is ample evidence to counter these attacks — evidence that clearly demonstrates the success of these policies in driving clean energy development and delivering real economic, public health, and environmental benefits to consumers.

Clean energy success stories abound across the Buckeye State

Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards are driving investments in Ohio communities, creating jobs, reducing electricity costs, and reducing Ohio’s over-dependence on fossil fuels.

The state’s first large-scale wind farm, the Blue Creek Wind Farm, is providing clean, affordable, and reliable electricity. And there are several more wind farms, totaling billions in investments, planned if Ohio’s clean energy standards remain intact. Solar has also taken off in Ohio, with almost 2,000 photovoltaic installations in the state, ranging from small-scale systems on residential rooftops to the 20-acre solar field helping to power the city of Napoleon. On the energy efficiency front, programs have already saved enough electricity to power Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Dayton for a year, and the average cost to save electricity is less than one-third what it costs to generate electricity.

Blue Creek Wind Farm in Northwest Ohio

The Blue Creek Wind Farm in Northwest Ohio is providing clean, reliable and affordable electricity to power Ohio, including providing 25 percent on Ohio State University’s electricity needs. Source: chascarper.

Given all the good news about clean energy coming out of Ohio – and we haven’t even talked about how Ohio is becoming a clean energy manufacturing leader – it’s hard to understand why policy makers would want to weaken or repeal Ohio’s clean energy standards.

But the war is far from over in Senator Seitz’s mind

Senator Seitz has vowed to continue fighting, laying out a multi-prong strategy that includes suing the state and holding hearings on a bill that would outright repeal Ohio’s clean energy standards. We also expect him to introduce another version of SB58 shortly after the new year.

Given this, it’s probably wise to assume clean energy supporters will be busy fending off attacks on Ohio’s clean energy standards again in 2014. But we’re ready, and we have momentum on our side. Most Ohioans support requiring utilities to ramp up their use of clean energy. And, with every wind turbine, solar panel, or weatherized home, more Ohioans see the benefits that Ohio’s clean energy standards can deliver. As our momentum grows, the discussion will eventually turn to increasing Ohio’s commitment to clean energy instead of abandoning it. But first we need the naysayers to get out of the way.

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About the author: Sam Gomberg is an energy analyst and an expert on responsible energy policies that support the development of renewable energy and energy efficiency resources that result in significant reductions of global warming emissions. See Sam's full bio.

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