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Will Ohio Abandon Energy Efficiency Standards?

Ohio legislation proposes freezing energy efficiency standard

4-7-2014
By: OLIVIA MILTNER

Ohio’s move toward more environmentally-friendly practices could be halted, as the Ohio Senate debates a bill that would freeze energy efficiency standards at current levels.

Senate Bill 310 would freeze renewable energy rates at 2.5 percent and eliminate energy efficiency requirements. It would also put a 3 percent cost cap on renewable energy and increase the annual energy efficiency savings requirement from 1 percent to 4.2 percent.

Supporters of the legislation, which was introduced by Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, on March 28, believe that requiring energy companies to invest in advanced energy increases the cost for consumers.

Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, said in a Columbus Dispatch interview that the laws need to be revised to reflect changes in reality.

“We’ve spent $1.1 billion since 2009 on energy efficiency… I’m not quite sure what we’ve gotten out of it,” Faber said in the article.

However, opponents claim the opposite, saying that supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy saves consumers and energy companies money while helping the state’s economy.

“We have 10,000 people directly involved in the energy efficiency industry and we’ve got 25,000 people involved in the advanced energy sector…we are creating jobs, we’re saving money, we’re bringing revenue into the state, we’re diversifying our energy portfolio,” said Neil Waggoner, Ohio Sierra Club’s national Beyond Coal organizing representative. “We’re a state that’s highly dependent on coal, so much so that even though we mine coal in the state, we literally can’t get enough co out of what we’re mining to meet our demand, so we’re sending a billion dollars out-of-state each year.”

Current energy policies were created in 2008, established by a widely-supported Senate Bill 221. Since then, legislators and interest groups have since been trying to repeal the standards through various proposed legislation. The most recent challenge, Senate Bill 58, was proposed in 2013 but was defeated after much deliberation.

In contrast, SB 310  has moved through the legislative process much more quickly because, according to Waggoner, this will limit the amount of criticism it will see.

“The legislature wants to move this bill very quickly, and the reason they want to move it quickly is if you give something time to actually get some public input,” Waggoner said. “They’re going to come out in opposition to it, which is what has happened with all these other (bills) that kill clean energy and energy efficiency standards.”

Although SB 310 retains some renewable energy requirements—one of 30 states to have those regulations—the state’s rates would become one of the lowest of the group, according to the Dispatch.

“It’s going to hurt these industries, it’s going to hurt the jobs they created and it’s going to cost consumers more,” Waggoner said. “If you’re paying an electric bill, you will be paying more down the road if these programs go away. It’s going to have a very negative impact on the overall future of the state.”

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