Ohio lawmakers have dealt another blow to the green energy industry and the state’s policies to encourage its use.
A group of state legislators want to freeze Ohio’s green energy standards indefinitely. These standards require utilities to cut energy use by 22% and increase the use of renewable energy sources by 12.5% by 2025.
The call for an indefinite freeze comes from the new report just released by the Energy Mandates Study Committee that spent the last few months looking into the cost and effectiveness of the standards.
The committee co-chair, Republican Representative Kristina Roegner of Hudson, says the standards had already raised the average electric bill by $40 a year.
“By the way we’re only just at the beginning of the march up what we’re calling mandate mountain. So those riders, if those mandates were to increase, you could extrapolate that those extra costs in your utility bills, each and every one of you would go up as well,” said Roegner.
But several advanced energy and environmental advocacy groups slammed the report soon after its release. Samantha Williams with the Natural Resources Defense Council disputes Roegner’s claims that the standards jack up energy bills.
“The amount that a consumer pays every year on their bill for efficiency and renewables is outweighed by far by the benefits that renewables bring. Lowering electric bills across the system, the opportunities to cut your own electric bills through efficiency and of course all the benefits that come with investments in cleaner energy,” Williams said.
The standards were frozen by the General Assembly last year after the House and Senate spent years debating the policies. Some members wanted an overhaul while others, such as Republican Senator Bill Seitz of Cincinnati wanted an all-out repeal.
Instead the lawmakers settled on a two-year freeze that would lift at the end of 2016. The bill that froze the standards also created the study committee.
The indefinite freeze would be a significant setback to renewable energy advocates who say the state’s standards were a big incentive for solar and wind energy development in Ohio. Industry experts have said that companies would not want to invest in a state with uncertain policies.
Democratic leaders were not happy with the report either. Representative Michael Stinziano of Columbus sat on the study committee and said the report essentially kicks the can down the road.
“A freeze was supposed to give the opportunity to have additional discussion and look at what the right balance of current resources, future resources could be and to hopefully position the state better an indefinite freeze doesn’t do that. I know it’s going to stymie job growth, health issues and doesn’t help consumers in any shape way or form,” said Stinziano.
The biggest opponent to an indefinite freeze is Gov. John Kasich. Ever since taking office the governor has touted an all-of-the-above approach. His spokesperson, Joe Andrews, released a statement saying a continued freeze is “unacceptable.” He adds that the administration stands willing to work with the General Assembly to create a bill that supports a “diverse mix of reliable, low-cost energy sources.”
Roegner defends the report which also called for a shift away from the standards and towards laws that would encourage green energy use, such as a pending bill that would dole out tax incentives.
“If you want to do a project let’s say you want to put up a solar panel project up. You can get that assessed on your property taxes so you can get the money and pay it back on your taxes. So it’s sort of an incentive to do something like that rather than a mandate,” said Roegner.
The standards will automatically start back up again at the beginning of 2017. Anything else, such as the report’s suggestion of an indefinite freeze would take a whole new bill with the governor’s signature.