A bill that would raise utility rates to bail out two Ohio nuclear power plants while gutting renewable energy standards cleared the Ohio House this week. House Bill 6, the so-called “Clean Air” bill, was approved by a 53-43 vote in House following a week of extensive hearings and last-minute lobbying efforts. The bill now heads to the Senate. Ohioans will pay for a “Clean Air Fund” to bail out FirstEnergy Solution’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants through a $1 monthly surcharge on their electric bills. Backers of the bill argue that this fee will save consumers money as the bill repeals the current $4.68 monthly utility fee. While the bill takes aim at lowering electric rates and protecting jobs in the nuclear energy industry, it guts Ohio’s clean and renewable energy standards. Ohio would be the first state to enact a measure that subsidizes nuclear energy for financial reasons while at the same time eliminating clean energy standards. Make no mistake – Ohio lawmakers are making a deliberate choice to go this route. As noted by Inside Climate News, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York have subsidized nuclear power plants recently, however, those measures bolstered support for clean and renewable energy. With both parties split on this legislation in the House, it’s not so obvious what political motives are behind some lawmaker’s support for it. This has been sought out by FirstEnergy and its PAC for a while now. Campaign finance records indicate that thousands of dollars were donated by FirstEnergy and its executives to Speaker Larry Householder and his loyalists. The struggling utility company’s former CEO, Anthony Alexander, donated $5,000 each to Householder’s and Rep. Jamie Callender’s (HB6 primary sponsor) 2018 campaign, along with a maximum contribution of $12,707 to Mike DeWine’s campaign. The Governor has come out in support of this bill. The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Editorial Board voiced its opposition to the bailout Friday, calling HB6 “a platter of goodies for deep-pocketed special interests who spent liberally — not just in advocating for this legislation but also on Householder’s efforts to get his supporters elected or re-elected to the Ohio House, so they could choose him as speaker.” One of the last-minute changes to House Bill 6 was to expand the bill to expand eligibility for the subsidies generated by the bill beyond the state’s two nuclear power plans to large solar facilities. According to the Ohio Power Siting Board, six facilities have been approved that would be eligible under the latest changes to HB6. A look at whose districts those facilities are located in suggests which lawmakers were targeted by the move:
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.
New research from The Ohio State University finds that Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards are responsible for the creation of over 3,200 jobs and saving Ohio electricity consumers over $300 million a year. In addition, the report found that if current efforts to repeal Ohio’s renewable standards were to pass consumers will be expected to pay $3.65 billion more in energy costs over the next 12 years. Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards went into effect in 2008 and require utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy and advanced energy technologies by 2025. The law also aims to reduce energy consumption by 22 percent by 2015 by focusing on energy efficiency gains. The OSU report is especially timely considering that just last week Ohio State Senator Bill Seitz introduced legislation that effectively guts the law that has successfully created thousands of jobs, saved Ohio consumers millions of dollars, and improved public health. Just last year, the report estimates the law saved consumers $190 million through energy efficiency savings alone. For 2008 to 2012, electricity users realized electricity savings of $230 million due to the law. The report also found that investments in advanced energy technologies were creating real economic gains in Ohio. These new investments created $160 million in economic growth in 2012 and created 3,200 new Ohio jobs between 2008 and 2012. The report forecasts significant economic benefits over the next 12 years for Ohio consumers and Ohio workers, assuming the law goes unchanged. Estimates include the creation of over 3,000 new jobs, lower electricity prices, and lower electricity demand due to the law staying on the books. The report found that if Republicans in the legislature are able to change the law it will have significant impacts on consumers bills. The report found that if proposed changes were successfully passed, electricity bills will climb by 3.9 percent which translates into an increase of $3.65 billion over the next 12 years, with an average increase of $300 million per year. Ohio’s renewable energy standards have been a key economic development tool for Ohio and lawmakers should think long and hard before they consider doing away with them. Gutting the state’s renewable energy requirements and energy efficiency standards will cost Ohioans millions in increased electricity bills, destroy jobs, and push this budding industry out of Ohio and into other states.
This 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. [Read more…]