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.
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.