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A New Clash Brews Over Ohio’s Clean-Energy Standards

The Ohio House of Representatives could vote on a bill by the end of March that would dilute the state's clean-energy standards. (Alexander Smith/Wikimedia)
The Ohio House of Representatives could vote on a bill by the end of March that would dilute the state's clean-energy standards. (Alexander Smith/Wikimedia)
March 15, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – With Ohio's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Standards still thawing after a two-year freeze, there's another clash brewing over clean energy at the Statehouse.

The House Public Utilities Committee held a hearing on Tuesday on House Bill 114. It would change the renewable standards passed in 2008 into voluntary goals, and reduce energy-efficiency targets.

Supporters of the bill argue that the standards kill competition. But Alli Gold Roberts, policy program manager for Ceres, a nonprofit alliance of environmental and investor groups, says the standards hold utilities accountable and spur utility investments in clean energy.

"States without these standards don't see this type of growth with their utilities, or the same types of offerings for companies and investors," she said. "These policies are ultimately drivers of economic development for the state, and without them, we don't know if that will continue."

Proponents of the bill cite a recent report from the Buckeye Institute, a conservative think-tank, that said continuing the standards would eliminate thousands of jobs and up to $15 billion of the state's Gross Domestic Product. Others say the report is an exception, and that most studies have shown considerable benefits from renewables.

Rep. Bill Seitz, the committee chair, said he expects a floor vote on the bill by the end of March.

Samantha Williams, a staff attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, says the clean energy and renewable energy industry is already responsible for 100,000 jobs in Ohio, along with other benefits.

"They help reduce energy prices overall across the entire state," she said. "And in the case of energy efficiency, they also give customers access to programs that help them cut their energy use. But also, renewable energy and energy efficiency help protect public health by cutting harmful air pollution."

The Republican-led General Assembly passed similar legislation (SB 320) in December, attempting to extend the freeze on the mandates for another two years.

But, attorney Colleen Mooney with Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy says not all Republican leaders were on board.

"Governor Kasich, who has always supported the energy efficiency and renewable plan, vetoed the legislation the last days of the year," she said.

House Bill 114 backers say they have enough support to override any attempts at a veto this time around. There has been no companion bill introduced in the state Senate.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH