Ohio is one of many states trying to scale back energy efficiency standards set for utility providers — even though these standards have lowered costs and reduced energy consumption by customers, according to the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association.
OMA, the state’s largest manufacturing trade group, is fighting against Republican-led efforts to weaken the laws that require utilities providers help customers use less electricity. The laws set a deadline of 2025 for electric utilities to help their customers reduce consumption by 22 percent. All but one state legislator approved the bill in 2008. The effects were dramatic and immediate; from 2008 to 2009 alone, Ohio electric utilities saved 530,062 megawatt-hours, ten times the prior year’s savings.
First Energy Corp, Ohio’s influential utility company, is seeking to freeze the efficiency standards at 2012 levels, which mandate reductions of .8 percent. The energy giant tried to rally its larger industrial customers against the efficiency standards, claiming they were hurting businesses. While First Energy Corp’s profits have certainly dropped, industrial manufacturers and Ohio consumers alike are enjoying the lower utility bills resulting from greater energy efficiency.
OMA commissioned an analysis of how the standards were working, presenting the findings to the Senate Public Utilities Committee on Tuesday. The analysis found that the total savings for utilities customers have surpassed the cost of implementing the programs. If the efficiency mandate levels are kept intact, Ohioans could save roughly $5.7 billion by 2020. The group has also argued that energy efficiency competes with power plants, keeping power prices lower.
Ohio’s small businesses and other industrial groups also overwhelmingly support the standards, arguing that business owners are now motivated to strive toward more efficient energy use in order to reduce their costs. Even other Ohio power companies, including American Electric Power, Duke Energy of Ohio, and Dayton Power & Electric, have embraced the programs.
On the national level, comparable energy efficiency standards have a long record of success. Yet the Department of Energy recently backed away from these standards for natural gas furnaces, which would have avoided 100 million tons of carbon emissions and reduced consumers’ costs by $10.7 billion.
The industrial sector is historically the biggest energy consumer in the U.S. However, as companies work to reduce their energy use, the industrial sector now accounts for the majority of energy reduction. Manufacturing consumption in the U.S. dropped 17 percent between 2002 and 2010.