Ohio Passes Nuclear Bailout and Rolls Back Renewable Energy Standards

This week, the Ohio House finished its work on Ohio Bill 6, controversial legislation to bail out two failing nuclear power plants, by holding a vote to concur with Senate changes to the proposal. The vote of 51-38 included 42 Republicans and 9 Democrats voting in support of the proposal, which angers environmental advocates because of how it undermines Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. The bill was later signed by Governor DeWine.

The legislation bails out the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants by creating a new 85 cent per month fee paid by residential ratepayers on their utility bills. The fund would generate $150 million per year to support the plants, as well as an additional $20 million to fund several large solar installation projects around the state. 

Amendments adopted in the Senate would reduce the state’s renewable energy targets down to 8.5% of total energy generation by 2026, well below the 12.5% required in current law, and the standards would disappear beginning in 2027. The measure would also sunset Ohio’s energy efficiency standards after 2026, phasing them out at 17.5 percent of the state’s total generation. Advocates point to provisions that would allow utilities to count cumulative savings toward energy efficiency requirements as rendering the standard useless to incentivizing additional efficiency measures. 

State Representative Casey Weinstein noted the questionable strategy of job creation, remarking “we are bailing out a failing corporation on the back of a growing industry. It really blows my mind.”

A provision was included to allow utilities to charge ratepayers $1.50 a month to fund subsidies for two coal plants, including one in Indiana, owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corporation. The Senate also authorized the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to conduct a public audit of First Energy’s finances, and to limit ratepayer fees if it is found that the company does not need all $150 million.

Immediately after Governor DeWine signed the bill, opponents announced they would seek to place the proposal on the ballot, putting it up to voters whether to allow it to become law.