Ohio lawmakers, governor at odds over renewables and efficiency freeze
- A 12-member panel of Ohio state legislators tasked with evaluating the state's renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates has recommended that they stay frozen at current levels indefinitely versus rising gradually, as the law originally intended.
- Gov. John Kasich (R) said the legislative committee's conclusion was "unacceptable" and called for lawmakers to find a balanced approach to supporting low-cost energy solutions. Kasich signed the initial bill last year that froze the mandates at 2.5% until 2017.
- The mandate package, passed almost unanimously in 2008, required utilities to source 25% of their electricity from alternative sources (including nuclear) by 2025, with half that amount coming from renewables, and compelled them to cut power usage 22% by that time.
When Ohio legislators passed a bill last year to freeze the state's reneawbles and efficiency mandates at 2.5%, many in the renewable energy sector were befuddled.
At that time, no other states had rolled back a renewable energy mandate program already in place, but Gov. Kasich signed the proposal to keep them at a standstill for two years, saying the state needed to "check back to see if everything's OK."
That's how the bill was sold — as a temporary freeze to study the issue — but now the study committee the bill mandated wants to keep the efficiency and renewable mandates at their current level, requiring power companies to do no more than they already have.
In particular, the committee referenced the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which the state is challenging in the courts.
"Prematurely enacting legislation to comply with a federal rule that may never go into effect seems irrational and could saddle Ohio ratepayers with extraordinary and unnecessary costs," the new committee report says.
In the same section, however, the report advocates that while the mandate is frozen, the state should "simultaneously prepare for the possibility that the CPP may take effect in some form or fashion" if the court challenges fail.
The problem with using the mandates as a way to prepare for the CPP is the uncertainty surrounding it, the committee members concluded. Because the state doesn't know if the regulations will go into effect or if the mandates are enough to meet them, the committee recommended freezing them altogether.
At the same time, the report states that the Ohio EPA "must work closely with the General Assembly in addressing the uncertainty surrounding the CPP."
Beyond the indefinite freeze, the study committee made four other suggestions, including moving to renewable and efficiency incentives instead of mandatory goals, streamlining the approval process for efficiency programs, and ensuring that the Ohio EPA cannot make energy policy for the state, regardless of what happens with the Clean Power Plan.
Several lawmakers released statements in the hours after the study was released indicating their willingness to work on efficiency and renewables issues further. Fossil fuel interests welcomed the study, and environmental groups panned it.
- Columbus Business First Ohio's renewable energy freeze should go on indefinitely, lawmakers recommend
- Columbus Business First Kasich: Ohio's renewable energy freeze is 'unacceptable'
- Columbus Business First 'Foolishness' or step in the right direction? Reactions to continuing Ohio's renewable energy freeze
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