While critics of Ohio’s recent nuclear bailout are moving toward a referendum to repeal the law, the new policy has won some support from an unusual source.
Greg Kuss, president of Solar Vision in Worthington, says that increased charges to electric customers will make solar an economical option.
“Now, the price of installing solar is comparable with what you’d be paying your local utilities,” Kuss says.
Kuss says the cost of solar panels has dropped dramatically over the past several years. He says laws passed more than a decade ago by Congress have helped renewable energy companies.
“The investment tax credit and other things that helped us have brought the prices down by a factor of like a quarter of what it used to cost,” Kuss says.
Under the new energy law, electricity customers will pay at least 85-cents more on their monthly bills. Some could pay up to $2.35 more a month. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies will go to ensure the survival of two FirstEnergy Solutions nuclear plants and two coal plants, one of which is in Indiana.
Some lawmakers tout that saving the plants means savings thousands of jobs.
Kuss says his company is stable now with three full-time employees, including himself, although he once had seven employees.
“Since ’11, we’ve been hanging in there,” Kuss says. “We’ve been managing the $26 million worth of projects that we put in the ground before ’11 and managing them and just kind of waiting on things to change.”
He says that his company did lose many expensive contracts after 2011, however, when state lawmakers changed their minds on Ohio's renewable energy standards. Solar Vision was on its way to completing $100 million in projects when lawmakers froze those standards, which were implemented just three years before.
The recent energy law went even further to shrink those standards and end them completely after 2026. It also eliminates energy efficiency programs.
Kuss says today it is more difficult to secure investors as they wait to see what other laws limiting energy standards may pass. He says other states have also subsidized their nuclear plant but haven't “trashed” green energy programs.
The new energy law does allocate about $20 million for some solar projects. Kuss says he will not be eligible for any of that money, though.
“I think that’s going toward some very large, down in Appalachia solar projects that have been in the books for 10 years and it’s finally going to happen,” Kuss says.
Despite the setbacks, Kuss says the climate for solar energy is rising.
“Now we just talk to the CFO, 'Hey do you want to pay less for your electricity?' They go, 'Yeah, why not,'" Kuss says.