Five Year Anniversary of Senate Bill 221 – Ohio’s Groundbreaking Renewable Energy Standards

windThis month marks the five year anniversary of Governor Strickland signing Senate Bill 221 into law. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate, large and small businesses, consumer groups, labor unions, faith leaders, hospitals, farmers, and the environmental community all fought for its passage.  After more than a year of public hearings this bipartisan piece of legislation passed both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly with only one ‘No’ vote.

Five years later there is a lot to show for the hard work that went into the process of creating one of the most aggressive renewable and energy efficiency standards in the country.  A recent report commissioned by the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association shows that the energy efficiency standard—requiring utilities to use less electricity—will save Ohio residents and businesses $5.6 billion dollars.

In addition to the savings, over 25,000 people are employed in the advanced energy field in Ohio. These workers manufacture energy efficiency materials, install and deploy energy efficiency technology and continue to engineer and create the technology of the future.  In fact, Ohio is ranked #6 in clean energy patents.

If you do not live on the western edge of Ohio, you may not be aware that the single largest capital investment in the state of Ohio in 2011 was the Blue Creek Wind Farm.  It was a $600 million dollar investment, employed a thousand workers, makes millions of dollars in payments to local governments and landowners and sourced much of the materials and manpower from right here in Ohio.

But this story doesn’t stop there.  The Ohio State University took the steps this past October to purchase a large chunk of the wind farm – enough to power 25% of all the electricity used on the Columbus campus at OSU.  The university will save $1 million annually in energy costs thanks to this long term contract with the wind farm.

So if you were the Governor or legislative leaders, what would you do to protect 25,000 jobs?  Make it a priority?  Yes?  The answer unfortunately is no.  The Ohio Senate is right now having a number of hearings and attacking the renewable and efficiency standards that are creating jobs and saving Ohioans money.  FirstEnergy, one of the country’s largest utilities, is actively trying to protect their bottom line and working to dismantle the energy efficiency standard.  The Governor has been silent.

Five years ago, Democrats and Republicans came together, business and labor came together, and many other unlikely allies came together for what was right for Ohio.  Today, FirstEnergy and ideologues in the legislature are actively working against progress.  And the Governor remains silent.