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Right-Wing Effort To Weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law Stalled, Not Dead

By Bryan Schatz, Guest Blogger

"Right-Wing Effort To Weaken Ohio’s Clean Energy Law Stalled, Not Dead"

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CREDIT: Cleveland, Ohio

The Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee canceled a vote Wednesday on a bill aimed at weakening the state’s renewable energy standard and energy efficiency mandate.

State Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) is the sponsor of the bill and also sits on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Board of Directors. ALEC, a right-wing group funded by corporations and fossil fuel interests, has made it a priority this year to repeal clean energy laws throughout the country, and failed on all accounts.

On Tuesday, S.B. 58 was debated by the Senate Republican Caucus on for more than 90 minutes, and now appears dead in committee — whose chairman is ironically Sen. Seitz.

Sen. Seitz said, “We’ve just begun to fight,” and emphasized he intended to revisit the bill after the first of the year. The Cincinnati Republican is also thinking of reviving a bill sponsored by State Senator Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander) that would repeal the renewable energy standard entirely.

A new version of S.B. 58 appeared just before the Thanksgiving holiday after Sen. Seitz had to cancel a committee meeting on November 19th that would have voted on the bill.

But even the revamped bill still would have weakened the state’s standard and increased costs for consumers. “The latest changes totally fail to address the shortcomings in the bill,” said Eric Burkland, President of the Ohio Manufactures Association, on November 26th.

Dave Stangis, Campbell Soup Company’s vice president for public affairs and corporate responsibility, wrote a letter to Ohio lawmakers urging them to reject the Seitz bill.

“In addition to being a clean, domestic source of energy, renewable energy like wind and solar has no fuel cost,” Stangis wrote. “While the cost of electricity from coal and gas will go up and down given the volatility of the markets for those fuels, we can enter into a 20 year contract for renewable energy where we know what we’ll be paying for the electricity today and in 2033. We’ve done just that at our largest manufacturing plant in the country, located in Napoleon, Ohio.”

Advanced Energy Economy Ohio released an Ohio State University economic analysis of the impact the legislation would have on customers’ electric bills. The study found that if S.B. 58 was enacted, the net effect would be an electricity bill 3.7 percent higher than projected under maintaining the current renewable energy and energy efficiency law, which translates into an increase of $3.94 billion between 2014 and 2025 for Ohioans.

The increase in costs to consumers is due to a section of Seitz’s bill that would allow utility companies to “award itself bonuses when it proves that it has helped customers use less power by installing energy efficient equipment.” The bonuses would be financed by the ratepayers.

Small businesses would have to pay an additional $3,291 in costs over the next three years, while households would pay as much as $528 over the next three years. The bill is also is projected to cost Ohio 6,500 new jobs in the renewable energy industry.

Seitz made headlines in March when he said the state’s renewable energy standard reminds him of “Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan.” Also, he recently called opponents of the bill, “enviro-socialist rent-seekers.”

Ohio’s energy standard, which passed both the House and Senate by a wide margin and was signed into law by Gov. Ted Strickland in 2008, requires utilities to provide 25 percent of their electricity supply from alternative energy resources by 2025. At least 12.5 percent of the electricity must be generated from renewable energy sources, including wind, hydro, biomass and at least 0.5 percent from solar energy. The standard also forces utilities to decrease customers’ energy use by 22 percent by 2025 through energy-efficiency practices.

According to a recent analysis by Ohio State University’s Center for Resilience, the 2008 policy has saved ratepayers 1.4 percent since S.B. 221’s implementation. Total electricity demand is down 2.57 percent while total renewable electricity generation is up 63.76 percent, and has created 3,200 jobs from its enactment in 2008 through 2012.

Bryan Schatz is an intern with the Energy policy team at the Center for American Progress. Matt Kasper contributed to this post.

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