Proposal to Dismantle Ohio's Clean Energy Standards Based More on Science Fiction than Fact

April 24, 2014 | 2:11 pm
Sam Gomberg
Senior Analyst

The proposal to dismantle Ohio’s clean energy standards remains on the table as the Ohio legislature takes a recess until May. The rationale behind this proposal, however, doesn’t hold water and Ohio legislators should reject it when they return to Columbus.

Ohio Statehouse - Columbus

The Ohio legislature continues to debate the state’s clean energy standards, but the evidence clearly shows that these standards benefit Ohio. Photo: The Ohio Channel

At the end of March, State Senator Troy Balderson introduced Senate Bill 310 (SB 310), which would dismantle Ohio’s popular and economically beneficial renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The bill creates a committee to “study” the issues, an obvious tactic to undermine good policy. His recent commentary in the Columbus Dispatch tries to justify this legislation by claiming that Ohio’s clean energy laws cost consumers, impede economic development, and are not based on sound science. In fact, the evidence shows just the opposite.

State lawmakers in Ohio listened to the science and made a smart choice in 2008 when a bipartisan majority passed clean energy standards that require utility companies to deliver 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources and reduce energy use by 22.5 percent through energy efficiency programs by 2025. At that time, just as today, Ohio was facing rising costs and increasing environmental, public health, and climate change risks from continuing to over-rely on fossil fuels.

And in 2008, just as today, renewable energy and energy efficiency offered an opportunity for the Buckeye State to rein in those rising costs, reduce risks to consumers, and drive economic development and job creation.

Evidence shows that Ohio’s clean energy standards are beneficial to consumers

And there’s strong evidence that these standards are working as intended. Our recent analysis shows that Ohio’s clean energy standards are cost-effective and deliver real economic, environmental, and public health benefits. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy also recently released three reports that show (1) how energy efficiency is the cheapest resource for meeting energy demand, (2) that energy efficiency standards are cost-effective , and (3) that Ohio’s energy efficiency standard is saving consumers money and driving down electricity prices in the wholesale energy markets.

Photo of 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 25 percent of Ohio State University’s electricity needs. Photo: chascarper.

The Ohio State University has also weighed in with an analysis finding Ohio’s clean energy standards have created 3,200 jobs and are saving Ohio consumers over $300 million per year. And as if that’s not compelling enough, filings by Ohio’s own utilities before the Public Utility Commission demonstrate that meeting the state’s renewable energy targets has been cost-effective and that energy efficiency programs have already saved two dollars for every dollar invested, and that they will continue to save money for several more years!

Local experts also agree that Ohio’s clean energy standards are beneficial for the state. More than 30 scientists, economists, engineers, and public health experts at Ohio colleges and universities have signed an open letter calling for not only maintaining but ultimately strengthening the Buckeye State’s clean energy standards. And this opinion is shared by most Ohioans, according to a survey conducted last summer by Yale University.

Proposed “study committee” is a thinly-veiled attempt to appear reasonable, not an honest review of the issues.

Yet supporters of SB 310 continue to claim that these standards are costly and that we must dismantle the standards and study the issues for the next 18 months. If these legislators are genuinely interested in saving consumers money, they would initiate a process aimed at studying all of the factors that contribute to rising electricity prices or impact Ohio’s economic competitiveness.

For example, Ohio sent $1.2 billion out of state to pay for imported coal in 2012 alone, and the volatility in natural gas prices was on display again this winter when the polar vortex sent natural gas and electricity prices skyrocketing in many parts of the nation. A truly evidence-based review of Ohio’s electricity sector and the most beneficial path forward for consumers is always a good idea and we welcome such an effort, but the apparent motives behind SB 310 suggest otherwise.

For most Ohioans, investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency is just common sense, while opposing investment in clean energy resources that are delivering significant benefits to Ohioans makes no sense at all. It is time to end the misinformed attacks on Ohio’s clean energy standards and get on with the business of creating a cleaner, more sustainable, and more affordable energy future for Ohio.