by Trish Demeter
Ohio Senate Bill 320 & Ohio House Bill 554: Holds Ohio Back, Increases Electric Bills, and Puts Ohioans’ Health at Risk
When Ohio Senate Bill 310 was enacted in June 2014, the idea behind the two-year “freeze” on Ohio’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), and energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) was to study the standards costs and benefits, and to craft a sound energy policy for the state of Ohio.
Ohio Senate Bill 320 and House Bill 554 offer no real solutions to the energy policy challenges facing Ohio. Since 2014, the energy landscape in Ohio has changed significantly. Older coal-fired power plants are struggling to compete against cheaper, more efficient resources in the competitive energy markets. Consumers of all sizes are increasingly exercising their right to self-generate through small distributed energy systems located at their home or business. And, last year the global capacity for renewable energy surpassed that of coal for the first time ever
Senate Bill 320/House Bill 554 extend the freeze on Ohio’s clean energy standards. These bills propose a 3-year period of voluntary standards in which all four regulated monopoly utilities would be able to do whatever they want in terms of offering rebates for energy efficiency upgrades, and buying renewable energy in the competitive marketplace. When practically applied, this voluntary compliance period amounts to a freeze extension.
Senate Bill 320/House Bill 554 will increase the electric bills of small businesses and Ohio families.By expanding the industrial opt-out to include electricity customers that fall into the “mercantile” class, these bills would provide a special exemptions for up to one-third of larger business customers, allowing them to exempt themselves from contributing to the energy efficiency programs that benefits all customers. Because of this, the expanded opt-out will inevitably shift the cost of energy efficiency programs to residential customers and business customers that fall below that 700,000 kwh usage threshold. Additionally, this provision is premature: Ohio Senate Bill 310 created an opt-out for large manufacturers that will become effective January 1, 2017. The impact of this existing law provision should be assessed once it has had time to percolate throughout the state, and then any expansion of this program should be assessed for whether an expansion is a prudent idea, or not.
Senate Bill 320/House Bill 554 puts Ohio behind other states, and holds us back from taking advantage of national trends. Earlier this summer, Washington, DC became the fifth jurisdiction to enact a 50% renewable energy target, and just recently, the Michigan Senate enacted a 15% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to be reached by 2022.
Further, in 2015, eleven states generated at least 10% of their power from wind farms: Iowa (31%), South Dakota (25%), Kansas (24%), Oklahoma (18%), North Dakota (18%), Minnesota (17%), Idaho (16%), Vermont (15%), Colorado (14%), Oregon (11%), Maine (10%). To boot, since 2010, the U.S. has increased its national portfolio of wind energy from 2.3% to 4.7%. A voluntary RPS, even for a short time, is simply an extension of the freeze on clean energy in Ohio, and would put Ohio far behind other states.
Senate Bill 320/House Bill 554 puts Ohioans’ health at great risk. If the freeze is allowed to thaw, the improvement we’d see in air quality due to less reliance on coal fired power would result in avoidance of approximately 2,230 asthma attacks, 120 Emergency room visits, 230 heart attacks and over 16,000 lost work and school days - just in the first year. Looking longer-term, the benefits grow exponentially. Through 2027, we could avoid over 44,000 asthma attacks.
For these reasons, the OEC opposes these bills, and urges Ohio lawmakers to vote NO on Senate Bill 320 and House Bill 554.