Shortly after Governor Kasich took office, he held an energy summit and announced his “21st Century Energy Policy,” which featured ten so-called “pillars.” It was, to his credit, heavy on energy efficiency and renewable energy. There was also recognition of coal, natural gas and waste energy opportunities.
At that time, the energy efficiency and renewable industries were booming. In fact, in 2011, among the largest capital investments in Ohio was the Blue Creek Wind Farm at $600 million. The industry is expanding and creating jobs, employing over 10,000 Ohioans and saving Ohioans billions of dollars. An analysis by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that when fully implemented, the Ohio’s efficiency laws will save Ohioans over $5 billion. This is exciting news – we create jobs, save money and the utilities have new opportunities to make money.
One step that Governor Kasich took last year was to allow waste energy recovery systems – waste heat from industrial processes like blast furnaces – to count as renewable energy under the law. This law also allows for combined heat and power systems – using traditional fossil fuels to create electricity, but also creates thermal energy – to count toward energy efficiency. While there were disagreements over these provisions, the Governor fought hard to move the bill for his signature and was proud to help large industrial businesses.
Flash forward to the current day.
The Governor’s Public Utilities Commission has yet to write the rules to implement this law (S.B. 315), denying regulatory certainty for the businesses looking to invest in these emerging technologies. We haven’t heard anything from Kasich.
In addition to the current regulatory uncertainty at the PUCO, Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) is now pushing to completely dismantle the energy efficiency standard as we know it. The same standard that is saving Ohioans billions of dollars. It appears that FirstEnergy — a huge financial contributor to Senator Seitz, the Republican Caucus and Governor Kasich — is behind this effort. Seitz also says he wants to eliminate the “in-state” requirement on renewable energy. This requirement is creating thousands of jobs. As a law that is creating jobs and saving money is being directly challenged by the legislature, we haven’t heard anything from Kasich.
In another matter, FirstEnergy is accused of over-charging customers by over $100 million. The PUCO thankfully is making them pay back $43 million. But the Ohio Consumers Counsel and Republicans on their board have questioned why the PUCO has permitted a “trade secret” to hide the actual amount customers were overcharged. And we haven’t heard anything from Kasich.
Remember the Turning Point Solar Project? It would have created 600 jobs, a number of which would have gone to military veterans. The PUCO rejected the project. And we haven’t heard anything from Kasich.
Finally, a case currently before the PUCO would extend a reasonable electric rate to Ormet, an aluminum manufacturing facility in Monroe County is getting a cool reception from Kasich appointees. There are 600 jobs on the line and the situation is dire. And we haven’t heard anything from Kasich.
So what has Kasich done?
Recently, when a 39-year veteran Ohio EPA employee followed the law to administer coal permits while protecting groundwater, a large financial contributor to Kasich, Bob Murray, got upset and complained. That same highly-respected, career employee was then told that the Governor would like him to resign.
The Governor needs to dust off his energy pillars before Ohio loses thousands of high wage jobs that are transforming Ohio as a leader on advanced technology.