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.