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Governor Kasich Should Stand with Ohio and Support Clean Energy

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Governor Kasich bowed to pressure from utility and fossil fuel interests last week when he endorsed the latest version of Senate Bill 310 (SB310) that would effectively dismantle Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The current bill, released just hours before its late-night passage in the Ohio Senate, is an unnecessary setback for Ohio’s clean energy future.

The legislation, which now moves to the Ohio House of Representatives for consideration, combines previously failed attempts by clean energy opponents to freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency resource standard and roll back of the state’s renewable energy standard. Check out our previous blog posts on Ohio for a good recap.

SB 310 would freeze Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards at their current low levels for two years while a group of legislators review the standards. Moreover, the bill will effectively put an end to new renewable energy investments in Ohio and shift many of the benefits of energy efficiency from consumers to utilities. To justify the proposal, Kasich and Ohio legislative leaders misguidedly claim the current standards are “unreasonable” even in the face of a strong body of evidence to the contrary and widespread public support.

Proposed “study committee” is not a science based approach to energy policy

When state senator Troy Balderson introduced SB 310 earlier this year, he promised an “evidence and science” based approach to energy policy that would bring together “diverse perspectives” from across Ohio. Instead, the Ohio Senate passed a bill that pays only lip service to this pledge and defers addressing the risks of Ohio’s continued overreliance on fossil fuels. The committee created to review Ohio’s clean energy standards will be made up of 12 legislators chosen by the same legislative leaders that have been pushing SB 310 forward. Not a single scientist, energy expert, business representative, consumer advocate or public interest organization will be involved.

Ohio Statehouse - Columbus

The Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee is considering changes to the state’s successful renewable energy and energy efficiency policies. (Photo source: The Ohio Channel)

A truly genuine effort to protect consumers from rising energy costs would bring together a diverse group of experts and stakeholders to examine all the factors that influence electricity prices, including the rising costs of coal, or the price volatility of natural gas, or the cost of keeping Ohio’s aging coal and nuclear fleets operational. Each of these has a much larger impact on consumers’ monthly electricity bills than either renewable energy or energy efficiency. Common sense tells us that if we are concerned about the cost of electricity, we should first study what makes up most of our electricity supply.

No credible analysis shows that freezing, weakening, or rolling back Ohio’s clean energy standards will save consumers money. Quite to the contrary, an analysis of utilities own filings with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio show consumers have saved $2 for every $1 invested in energy efficiency programs, with more savings expected in the future. Similarly, the upfront cost of installing wind and solar is offset in part by the fact that the “fuel” for wind and solar is free, resulting in fuel cost savings and downward pressure on wholesale electricity prices. Freezing or rolling back Ohio’s clean energy standards is a harmful and unnecessary step if the goal is to study the benefits and costs of these policies.

SB310’s other provisions are enough to kill clean energy development in Ohio

On top of stalling the clean energy markets for two years, SB310 borrows more than a page from last year’s failed SB 58 and would effectively end renewable energy development in Ohio and shift the benefits of energy efficiency away from consumers and to the utilities. In the case of renewable energy, SB310 removes the requirement that some of Ohio’s renewable energy standard be met with in-state resources, allows existing hydropower from other states to count towards meeting the standard, and changes the contractual relationship between utilities and renewable energy developers to shift all the risk to the developers. With energy efficiency, SB310 allows utilities to count things that they have nothing to do with, like updated building codes and appliance standards. The bill also allows utilities to recover from Ohio ratepayers the cost of updating power plants that may never serve an Ohio consumer.

SB310 benefits utilities at the expense of consumers and is a giveaway to fossil fuel interests that have been waging war on clean energy in Ohio and other states for years. It may be a good time to have a balanced, evidence-based discussion about Ohio’s energy future – one that is grounded in science and takes a comprehensive approach. SB310’s proposed “study committee” doesn’t accomplish that. Governor Kasich should stand strong for Ohioans and fight to stop this bad bill and veto it if it lands on his desk.

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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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  • Kevon Martis

    What a grand day for science and the environment! As the Brookings Institute just demonstrated last week: “First–assuming reductions in carbon emissions are valued at $50 per metric ton and the price of natural gas is $16 per million Btu or less–nuclear, hydro, and natural gas combined cycle have far more net benefits than either wind or solar. This is the case because solar and wind facilities suffer from a very high capacity cost per megawatt, very low capacity factors and low reliability, which result in low avoided emissions and low avoided energy cost per dollar invested.” http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/05/low-carbon-electricity-technologies-frank Let Governor Kasich’s courageous stand be a model for the rest of the country: when armchair environmentalists dictate energy policy the planet suffers! Huzzah!

    • http://www.ucsusa.org/about/staff/staff/sam-gomberg.html Sam Gomberg

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the passage of SB310 in Ohio will move the state further behind the rest of the nation in our transition to a safe, reliable and affordable 21st century electricity system. And it will end up costing Ohioans billions in unnecessary electricity costs, increased rates and economic and public health impacts of its continued over reliance on fossil fuels.

      Your criticism of renewable energy is misinformed. Numerous studies from independent analysts, grid operators, state agencies, federal agencies and the Union of Concerned Scientists have documented the economic, public health, environmental and climate change benefits of increasing our share of renewable energy and energy efficiency. As an example, I would refer you to PJM’s (the regional grid in which Ohio sits) renewables integration study that found that increasing renewable energy to 30% of the electricity supply would result in a 40% reduction on carbon emissions from the region’s electricity sector.

    • samgomberg

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, the passage of SB310 in Ohio will move the state further behind the rest of the nation in our transition to a safe, reliable and affordable 21st century electricity system. And it will end up costing Ohioans billions in unnecessary electricity costs, increased rates and economic and public health impacts of its continued over reliance on fossil fuels.

      Your criticism of renewable energy is misinformed. Numerous studies from independent analysts, grid operators, state agencies, federal agencies and the Union of Concerned Scientists have documented the economic, public health, environmental and climate change benefits of increasing our share of renewable energy and energy efficiency. As an example, I would refer you to PJM’s (the regional grid in which Ohio sits) renewables integration study that found that increasing renewable energy to 30% of the electricity supply would result in a 40% reduction on carbon emissions from the region’s electricity sector.

      • Kevon Martis

        I am fully aware of the PJM study. Glad to see you read the AWEA talking points too. What you don’t talk about is the price per unit of emissions avoided with high wind and solar mandates, which, if one is concerned about coal plant emissions, should be one of the key factors.

        Neither do you point out what the PJM study also says: in the best case wind scenario the vast majority of the wind would be built in Illinois, not Ohio.

        You also fail to report one of the chief assumptions of the PJM report: the construction of a hell of a lot of gas generation.

        Finally, your statements above do not contradict Brookings in any fashion: the cheapest means of reducing coal plant emissions are gas, nuke and hydro with solar and wind far behind.

        That means any of your vaunted health benefits are achieved much more quickly and cheaply by leaving wind and solar out of the picture.

        In truth it is the enviro-industrial complex’s opposition to nuclear energy that has allowed coal to persist as long as it has. If UCS and the rest of the alphabet soup gang would have promoted nuclear and gas rather than opposed it at every turn, people’s diminished health, to the degree that those impacts are real, would have already been remedied.

        Yes- what I am saying is that the blood of asthmatic children is on your hands, not mine.

        My solution-gas to nuclear-is fast cheap and permanent.

        Wind is none of these.

        I bring a proven cure. You insist on leaving that cure on the shelf and suggest instead that a new cure should first be developed even as you bemoan all the suffering asthmatics.

        And you should tip your hat to AWEA’s Goggin-he always starts out by telling people who prevent evidence that wind is ineffective that they are “misinformed as well”. Not very “scientific”.

        And I am not misinformed.

      • samgomberg

        Mr Martis.

        Cleaning up our energy supply through efficiency
        and renewables has strong public health, climate and economic benefits. Don’t take my word for it. A vast library of independent analyses verify this.

        I would also add that UCS is neither anti-natural gas or anti-nuclear. We believe both have a role to play in a diversified, low-carbon electricity portfolio that also includes significant contributions from renewable energy and energy efficiency.

        However, it is clear that nuclear power cannot be quickly developed, is not cheap, and is not permanent (unless you’re talking about nuclear waste), as you claim. Further, there are serious environmental and economic risks to over-relying on natural gas. And studies have shown that a switch from coal to natural gas will not produce the carbon reductions we need to avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change.

        Again, thank you for your comment.

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