Republican lawmakers are pushing legislation that could devastate the advanced energy sector, a burgeoning industry in Ohio, simply to allow utility companies to collect more in profits from consumers. Senate Bill 58, sponsored by Republican Senator Bill Seitz, eliminates an existing requirement that utilities generate a certain percentage of renewable energy from Ohio sources and will allow utilities to use renewable energy generated from anywhere – including hydro-power generated in Canada.
Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements were passed into law 5 years ago with only one lawmaker voting to oppose the law. Since then the law has helped to save billions of dollars in energy costs, improved Ohio’s air quality, and led to hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity. One key provision of the law requires utility companies to generate at least 25 percent of their electricity from advanced and renewable energy sources by 2025 and at least half or that must come from within Ohio.
So far, this requirement has been crucial in creating one of the most vibrant industries in Ohio. Over 25,000 Ohioans were employed in the advanced energy industry in 2010 – the most recent year data is available – a size equal to the agriculture and mining industries combined. Ohio ranks #4 in the nation in wind industry employment and the state is ranked #6 in clean energy patents. And a recent study by The Ohio State University found that Ohio’s energy standards are responsible for the creation of over 3,200 jobs and saving consumers $300 million a year.
Gutting the advanced energy requirements of the law would be a shock to this infant industry and would stunt its growth. Last week during testimony on the bill, business owners of some of the largest advanced energy companies testified that these changes would hurt their businesses and might drive some employers to lay-off workers and move to neighboring states. Investors have spent millions of dollars over the last five years nurturing and growing the advanced energy industry in Ohio because of the state’s commitment through its renewable energy requirements. Now, lawmakers want to pull the rug out from these investors and business owners at a time when the state needs to be encouraging investment.
Opponents of SB 58 also point out that the changes would allow utility companies to use hydro-power electricity generated in Canada to qualify under their renewable energy requirement. In effect, the would codify an incentive to grow Canadian hydro-power companies while at the same time stripping regulations that created thousands of good paying jobs in Ohio.
At a time when economic growth has practically stalled in Ohio, lawmakers should not be advocating for policy changes that would cripple a successful industry. Ohio’s renewable energy requirements have lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs and investment in Ohio. Lawmakers should hold up these types of policies as achievements instead of attempting to tear them down.
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