On May 8, the Ohio Senate passed S.B.310, a bill to alter the state's renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The RPS requires Ohio utilities to procure 12.5% of their electricity from renewable resources, such as wind and solar, by 2024. However, S.B.310 aims to freeze those requirements at current levels for two years while a new committee reassesses the law's standards.
Originally, lawmakers behind the bill pushed to fully eliminate the RPS, but the Republican-controlled Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich worked together on the new version. The governor and Ohio Sen. President Keith Faber, R-Celina, issued a joint statement regarding the change.
‘The well-intentioned strategy developed in 2008 to encourage alternative energy generation mandated levels which are now emerging as a challenge to job creation and Ohio's economic recovery. They are simply unrealistic and will drive up energy costs for job creators and consumers," the officials said.
"However, alternative energy sources are an important component of Ohio's diverse energy portfolio, which is why we've rejected the notion of scrapping Ohio's renewable standards," the statement continued. "Instead, by temporarily holding at our current level while problems are ironed out, we keep the progress we've made, ensure we steadily grow new energy sources and preserve affordable energy prices for both businesses and consumers."
Nonetheless, some renewable energy advocates say the amended S.B.310 still puts the state's clean energy future in jeopardy. And although Ohio is currently home to little more than 430 MW of installed wind capacity, figures from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory show that the state has the onshore wind potential to reach about 55 GW.
Ted Ford, president and CEO of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy (Ohio AEE), says, "This bill makes fundamental changes in Ohio's energy policy that will have long-term impacts on investments and jobs."
According to Ford, 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. "Those new projects are unlikely to happen if the bill becomes law," he says.
In fact, an official from developer EverPower Wind Holdings recently told the Bellefontaine Examiner that S.B.310 sends mixed signals that the state is no longer serious about renewables. Furthermore, the bill could hinder the developer's Ohio projects that are in the works.
"This doesn't make it impossible to build if we can find appropriate buyers," said EverPower's Michael Speerschneider, "but it certainly doesn't make it any easier."
The amended S.B.310 would create a 13-member committee of state legislators meant to study the RPS issue during the two years the mandate is frozen. Unless lawmakers decide to act on the study, the standards would automatically resume in 2017. Ford says the Ohio AEE and other clean energy stakeholders are open to assessing the RPS, but he fears the committee's charge is "clearly slanted toward repealing the standards at a future date."
"[The bill] has been rushed through the process, with little analysis and public input," he says. "We welcome an objective study of the current policies and a cost/benefit analysis. We simply want to leave them in place while doing so, as to not harm what is already working and not risk any potential job loss or any long-term investment in our state."
The bill has moved to the Ohio House of Representatives, and it is likely to reach the House floor for a full vote next week.