Need another reason (besides the economic, environmental and public health impacts) for why Ohio Senate Bill 310 – which freezes for two years the state’s requirements for investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy – is a terrible idea for Ohio? How about the fact that it hurts the Buckeye State’s ability to cost-effectively meet the newly proposed federal carbon standards for existing power plants.
New carbon standards provide flexibility in how states can comply, including polices that drive investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
On Monday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released proposed standards for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing power plants. The proposed rules are an historic step forward in addressing our nation’s contribution to climate change – helping to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s power sector by 26 to 30 percent below 2005 levels. The new standards are required by the federal Clean Air Act and have been pushed forward by President Obama’s Climate Action Plan and widespread support for the United States to finally take action on addressing climate change.
After an unprecedented outreach campaign by the EPA to gather input from a variety of stakeholders, the proposed rules set state-specific reduction targets for 2020 and 2030, but give the states considerable flexibility in how they meet those targets – taking into account how they currently generate electricity, what the state-specific CO2 reduction opportunities are, and giving credit for actions that have already been taken to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector. One of the key tools that states can use for compliance is investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy that will reduce a state’s reliance on fossil fuels. And one of the key drivers of investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy are clean energy standards that require utilities to invest in these resources. In this regard, Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, which were enacted with bipartisan support in 2008, would have provided a foundational cornerstone in Ohio’s plan to meet the new federal standards.
Ohio Senate Bill 310 will halt clean energy investments and put the state at a disadvantage for cost-effectively meeting new carbon standards.
Unfortunately, the Ohio legislature just passed Senate Bill 310 (SB310) that freezes the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards at their currently modest levels for two years – all but halting investment in these resources and ensuring Ohio’s continued over reliance on coal to meet its electricity needs. The legislation also specifically states the intent of the legislature to further rollback the energy efficiency and renewable energy standards at the end of the two-year freeze – ensuring continued delay for Ohio’s transition to a lower-carbon, cleaner, more reliable and sustainable 21st century electricity sector.
When it comes to cost-effectively complying with the new federal carbon standards, this is akin to tying one hand behind your back as you try to swim across a river. Ohio’s clean energy standards would have required increasing levels of energy efficiency and renewable energy to help meet the state’s electricity demand, reducing demand by 22 percent through energy efficiency programs and meeting another 12.5 percent of demand with renewable energy, both by 2025. These standards would have given Ohio a strong start on reducing CO2 emissions in compliance with the EPA’s proposed rules. However, if Governor Kasich signs SB310 into law this week as expected, he’ll be effectively turning Ohio’s back on clean energy and taking these important compliance tools off the table as Ohio develops a plan to meet the new carbon standards.
The overwhelming majority of evidence shows that Ohio’s clean energy standards are working as intended – they are driving economic investments, creating jobs, and reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels. And they are doing it cost-effectively. Unfortunately, the Ohio legislature was swayed by a misinformation campaign waged by the fossil fuel and utility special interests that have undue influence at the statehouse in Columbus. So while the rest of the nation moves forward on building a low-carbon, 21st century electricity system that includes real contributions from energy efficiency and renewable energy, Ohio continues to cling to its overreliance on aging, dirty and inefficient coal fired power plants. It’s a dangerous move for the Buckeye state – one that will have a lasting impact on the state’s economy, environment, and public health. And it puts Ohio at a disadvantage in cost-effectively complying with our nation’s move to finally reduce the electricity sector’s contributions to climate change.
Governor Kasich would be well served to reconsider vetoing SB310 and retaining the state’s clean energy standards for the benefit of all Ohioans.