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Businesses Caution Kasich on Impact of Freezing Ohio Energy Laws

PHOTO: More than 70 businesses and organizations say legislation awaiting Gov. John Kasich’s signature reverses course on the state's renewable-energy policy and would negatively affect Ohio business and residents. Photo courtesy Environmental Protection Agency.
PHOTO: More than 70 businesses and organizations say legislation awaiting Gov. John Kasich’s signature reverses course on the state's renewable-energy policy and would negatively affect Ohio business and residents. Photo courtesy Environmental Protection Agency.
June 6, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Dozens of manufacturers and other organizations are asking Gov. John Kasich to think twice before signing a bill that would freeze Ohio's renewable and energy-efficiency laws.

In a letter to the governor, they claim Senate Bill 310 will "create a start-stop effect that will confuse the marketplace, disrupt investment, and reduce energy savings for customers."

One company that signed the letter is Iberdrola Renewables Inc.. Eric Thumma, director of policy and regulatory affairs at Iberdrola, said businesses want options to help meet customers' demands for cleaner, more efficient energy.

"Renewable energy is the only real form of large-scale energy that can provide fixed prices over a long term that aren't subjected to the volatility of fossil-fuel markets," Thumma said.

The letter also spelled out how energy-efficiency and renewable-energy standards can help Ohio comply with the federal Environmental Protection Agency's newly proposed carbon-pollution limits for power plants. Those signing the letter include Whirlpool, Honda and the Campbell Soup Co., as well as alternative-energy companies First Solar and EDP Renewables.

If Kasich signs the bill, a study committee would be assigned to investigate the Ohio Renewable Portfolio Standard, which critics claim is too expensive for business and utilities. Thumma said there's a chance the committee could see the merits of the standard and even strengthen it.

"It's conceivable that they could come back with positive recommendations to eliminate the negative provisions in the RPS," he said, "and get it back on a good track to promote renewable energy in Ohio."

According to the letter, the energy-efficiency and renewable-energy industry in Ohio employs more than 25,000 people at more than 400 companies.

Meanwhile, Thumma said the wind industry is facing another challenge. Ohio's mid-biennium budget review includes a measure that would increase the required setback zoning for wind turbines.

"It's taken what we would regard as strict and publicly safe setback standards that have been put in place legislatively last year and are enforced by the Ohio Power Siting Board," he said, "and replaced those with standards that are so strict that we wouldn't really be able to build wind farms in Ohio."

Thumma said the standard would change the way setbacks are measured from a neighbor's home to the property line.

Text of SB 310 is online at legislature.state.oh.us.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH