ELPC’s Rob Kelter Critical Of Renewed Attacks On Clean Energy In Ohio

GOP State Legislators Trying Again to Weaken Renewable-Energy Standards
March 7, 2017
By Dan Gearino

Republican state legislators are trying again to weaken clean-energy standards, hoping to pass a measure similar to one that Gov. John Kasich vetoed in December.

The 73-page bill would change state rules that require electricity utilities to invest in renewable energy and help customers to reduce energy use.

House Bill 114, introduced Tuesday, has more than 50 co-sponsors, including all of the Republican leadership, in a chamber with 99 members.

“We just wanted to have a strong showing of support,” said Rep. Louis Blessing, R-Cincinnati, the lead sponsor.

Meanwhile, environmentalists, clean-energy businesses and others say that they are ready to fight this proposal just as they did previous ones.

The question for legislators is whether there is enough support to override another veto. Republicans added to their House and Senate majorities in the November election, but it is not clear whether leaders can win the votes of two-thirds of each chamber, the minimum needed to override a veto by Kasich, a fellow Republican.

“I know a lot of people will interpret (the bill) as being hostile to the governor … but that’s not the intent,” Blessing said.

Emmalee Kalmbach, a Kasich spokeswoman, had this statement:

“The governor has been clear regarding the need to work with the General Assembly to craft a bill that supports a diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources while preserving the gains we have made in the state’s economy,” she said.

Among the proposed changes in the bill:

  • Utilities would no longer face penalties for not meeting annual benchmarks for purchases of renewable energy. Instead, the companies would have optional goals.
  • The rules for energy savings would go through several changes, reducing the amount required while also expanding the definition of what types of savings can be counted.
  • Many businesses would be able to opt out of electricity-bill charges that pay for utilities’ clean-energy programs.

Blessing said utilities have indicated to him that they would continue clean-energy programs even without mandates and would like the flexibility of no longer facing penalties for not meeting the standards.

“The mandates at this point are just unnecessary,” he said.

Indeed, Columbus-based American Electric Power has a plan to dramatically expand its spending on wind and solar power.

“We are still reviewing the legislation, but we think there needs to be a broader policy discussion about Ohio’s energy future,” said Scott Blake, an AEP spokesman. “We’ve made significant investments to comply with the renewable and energy efficiency standards that are in place and have run very successful programs for our customers.”

Opponents of the bill say there is no good reason to tinker with a law that has been good for the state.

“This is a solution in search of a problem,” said Rob Kelter, a senior attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Ohio’s energy policy is in a good place right now, and we should leave it alone.”

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