New version of Ohio House Bill 114 is a Mishmash of Good, Better & Bad

By Trish Demeter

On May 16, the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee introduced a new version of HB 114, and the new package is a mash-up of great moves, and better provisions than last year’s House version, but contains a few Trojan horse amendments that could tear down Ohio’s efficiency opportunity from the inside out.

While the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund’s opposed position on this clean energy standards rollback bill has not changed since its introduction in early 2017, we must commend the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee for their  more reasonable, common sense efforts when it comes to approaching clean energy policy.

Our unmoving opposition to this bill is due to the fact that even with all the good changes, the legislation contains provisions that would more than likely increase harmful air pollution throughout the state. Compared to the status quo, this impact is unacceptable.  

The introduction of the substitute bill got the attention of editorial boards, namely the Akron Beacon Journal, which cited a very timely report called Powering Ohio (released in late May) which found that the state could attract $25 billion in investment and add 20,000 jobs if the state were to create an environment in which clean energy could flourish.

The good:

  • Corrects the overly-burdensome wind turbine siting requirements enacted four years ago that essentially established a de facto moratorium on new wind farms in Ohio. This change has the potential of unlocking approximately 3,000 megawatts of new wind development in the state which is enough to power over 100,000 homes
  • Adds a provision that increases the size threshold from 5 megawatts to 20 megawatts for behind-the-meter wind projects that would have to undergo lengthy Ohio Power Siting Board review and approval. This will shorten the timeline for companies that seek to put small wind projects on their property in order to power their businesses with up to 100% wind power.

The better-than-before measures:

  • Maintaining minimum mandatory renewable and efficiency standards, rather than voluntary goals.
  • Removes expanded definitions of energy efficiency that allow utilities to count efficiency measures that they had no hand in creating.
  • Puts some constraints on the previously carte blanche expanded opt out for some business customers such as a delayed effective date of January 1, 2020, and imposes some reporting requirements for the businesses that choose to opt-out.

The bad:

  • Cuts down the cumulative targets for Ohio’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and energy efficiency resource standard (EERS). The RPS is lowered from 12.5% by 2027 to 8.5% by 2022, and the EERS is lowered from 22.2% by 2027 to 17.5% EERS by 2026
  • Maintains an expanded opt out under the EERS for “mercantile” customers, which is a huge swath of customers ranging from a string of convenience stores, to a hospital campus, to a mid-size manufacturer.
  • Adds a provision that allows utilities to earn shared savings incentives on energy savings that they have banked from previous years, which is a stark departure from past PUCO decisions on whether or not utilities could earn profits on previously-achieved savings. This change would turn an incentive payment mechanism designed to encourage utilities to go above and beyond minimum benchmark into a profit guarantee of approximately $500 million, regardless of whether the utilities are running good efficiency programs or not.

On Wednesday, June 20, the OEC Action Fund will testify in opposition of this bill in front of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.

During the week of June 25th, it’s highly likely that the committee invites Opponent testimony, amends the bill, passes it out of committee, and schedules it for a full Senate floor vote, and possibly over to the Ohio House for concurrence.

The timeline is incredibly short, and it’s still unclear what the Ohio House would do with this new version of the bill, and not to mention Ohio Governor John Kasich, who has reaffirmed several times a veto threat of a bill that rolls back Ohio’s standards. Not only has the Ohio House already affirmed they would like to repeal the “mandates” via their vote on HB 114 in March 2017, they also house the preeminent anti-wind energy crusader, Rep. Bill Seitz, who continues to have a powerful voice among his colleagues on this issue.

While we cannot predict the exact outcome of this bill, we can bet it’s going to be an interesting few weeks.