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Five Years Later: Clean Energy “Under Attack” in Ohio?

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PHOTO: As the Ohio General Assembly reviews the state's five-year-old energy efficiency standard, there are concerns that clean energy is under attack in Ohio. Photo courtesy of the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter.
PHOTO: As the Ohio General Assembly reviews the state's five-year-old energy efficiency standard, there are concerns that clean energy is under attack in Ohio. Photo courtesy of the Sierra Club Ohio Chapter.
 By Mary KuhlmanContact
May 1, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As the Ohio General Assembly reviews the state's five-year-old energy efficiency standard, there are concerns that clean energy could be under attack.

Since the state standard was enacted, more than 1,000 renewable-energy projects have been built in Ohio, including the Blue Creek Wind Power Project in Van Wert. Paul Copleman, a spokesman for Iberdrola Renewables, which operates the project, said the company chose to do business in Ohio for the legislative and regulatory support it received. It's had a significant economic impact statewide, he said.

"This is a project that put over 30 Ohio companies to work, that spent $25 million locally during construction," Copleman said. "It represented roughly a $600 million investment in the state of Ohio."

The standard requires utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their electricity from renewables and to reduce energy consumption. FirstEnergy Corp. is among those advocating changes to the efficiency rules, claiming they are costly and unnecessary.

Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, chairman of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, called for a review of both the energy-efficiency and renewable-energy standards, saying the hearings are simply a prudent five-year review of a 20-year plan.

"It would be the height of folly to do nothing and then find out that your failure to modify the plan over 20 years has resulted in tremendous market distortions or benchmarks that proved to be technologically unattainable," he said. "You don't do that."

Groups such as the Sierra Club are concerned the review will end up weakening the standards, which they say have made the state more competitive, created jobs and saved consumers money.

Doug Bell, who works in Ohio's home weatherization industry, said energy efficiency is cheaper than any source of electricity.

"Electricity is going from 7 to 10 cents a kilowatt hour," he said. "Energy efficiency, the expenditure to reduce it by a kilowatt hour, is about 3 cents. So, for every penny that the state puts into energy efficiency, Ohio gets three pennies back."

To date, Ohio utilities' energy-efficiency programs have saved customers an estimated $1 billion.

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