Both chambers of the Ohio legislature have approved S.B.310, a bill that would freeze the state's clean energy and energy efficiency mandates for two years.
The Ohio Senate had passed the bill earlier this month, and the state House of Representatives followed suit on Wednesday. The legislation now goes to Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, who is expected to sign the bill. If S.B.310 becomes law, Ohio would be the first state to roll back its renewable energy standard.
Passed in 2008, Ohio's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) requires state utilities to procure 12.5% renewables, as well as reach 22% energy efficiency reductions, by 2025. However, S.B.310 would pause those requirements at current levels for two years while a new committee reassesses the law's standards. Unless lawmakers decide to act on a resultant study, the requirements would resume in 2017.
Supporters of S.B.310, including Gov. Kasich, argue that the AEPS has unrealistic goals and boosts energy costs. Although lawmakers had originally aimed to repeal the clean energy law altogether, Kasich and Ohio Sen. President Keith Faber, R-Celina, later worked on a compromise they said would halt the standards "while problems are ironed out."
According to report from The Columbus Dispatch, Kasich plans to sign the bill. In a statement, a governor spokesperson said, "After a lot of hard work, we've got a solid plan to examine the progress Ohio has made while also holding onto that progress."
Some legislators and renewable energy advocates, however, argue that even a so-called "freeze" will have a huge negative impact on Ohio's clean energy economy and are urging the governor to veto the bill.
State Rep. Mike Foley, D-Cleveland, voted against S.B.310 and calls the bill's passage "totally unjustifiable and completely immoral."
"Ohio has made great progress in diversifying our energy sources and reducing the amount of pollutants we put into the air," says Foley in a statement. "This General Assembly, however, seems bound and determined to drag Ohio backward and jeopardize our efforts to create green jobs and mitigate our impact on the environment."
He claims the two-year freeze could lead to a $6 billion loss in possible capital investment and actually increase energy rates.
Cheryl Roberto, associate vice president of clean energy at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), has also issued a statement.
"We worry some legislators and utility monopolies have misled the governor about the bill's true impact," says Roberto, adding that Kasich still has time to veto the bill and should.
According to EDF, "The bill causes uncertainty for private investors and the many clean energy companies in the state. Without legislative support, the strong manufacturing base that has made Ohio the nation's third leading state in producing energy-efficiency equipment and the top state in wind-related manufacturing facilities will be forced to relocate elsewhere."
Ted Ford, head of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, recently told NAW that about $1.2 billion has been invested in wind power in Ohio, and another $2.5 billion in shovel-ready projects have been approved for construction. If the bill becomes law, he said, those new projects likely will not be built. The state currently has about 430 MW of installed wind capacity.