The world is undergoing a massive transition in how it generates, transports, manages and delivers electricity to homes, neighborhoods, and businesses. Consider that in 2015, global capacity for renewable energy surpassed that of coal for the first time ever in human history. About half a million solar panels were installed every day around the world in 2015. In 2015, China was installing two wind turbines every hour and continued that growth in 2016 to the tune of one turbine installation per hour.
Ohio is very much part of this world, and because of our Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS), we are once again moving in the same direction as those around us in the rapid global transition towards clean energy. Substitute House Bill 114 signifies derailment, and if enacted in its current form, would put Ohio behind other Midwestern states in the competition for technological innovation and next generation manufacturing.
House Bill 114 proposes a rollback of the clean energy standards by: making compliance voluntary rather than mandatory; reducing the cumulative energy savings target; watering down the EERS by expanding Ohio’s industrial opt-out program, and; adding several new definitions under what qualifies as an energy efficiency measure. All these changes combined essentially amount to a repeal of Ohio’s existing, functioning and invaluable standards.
But HB 114 is not the first time our clean energy standards have been attacked. In 2014, the bill that froze the clean energy standards - Ohio Senate Bill 310 - also made several permanent law changes that were seemingly minor, but have and will continue to erode the integrity of Ohio’s EERS.The impact of this law change has allowed some utilities to get something for nothing. No other state in the nation allows utilities to count anything but savings that its programs produce towards its own annual targets. Specifically, SB 310 expanded what kinds of “efficiency” that a utility can claim towards its annual benchmark in two ways:
Allowed utilities to claim savings achieved through increasing federal efficiency standards required for manufacturers of electrical equipment, lighting, and appliances, and;
Allowed utilities to claim energy savings that their customers achieved via their own means, without the prompting of an incentive or rebate.
Prior to SB 310, decisions about what could count towards a utility’s annual benchmark was decided at the PUCO, after lengthy stakeholder input and engagement, and close review of the latest technologies and innovation in the industry. This was an appropriate approach and allowed for relative nimbleness and adaptation to best practices.
If Ohio’s businesses are unhappy with current utility run energy efficiency programs, then let’s work together to find solutions that fit Ohio. There are various models in other states that have produced real energy savings while keeping business customers happy.
Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard play a critical role in setting the course for Ohio’s energy portfolio, and to gradually diversify where Ohioans get their electricity. House Bill 114 needs to be rejected in its current form, which would allow Ohio’s clean energy standards to continue to deliver benefits to Ohioans.