A bill introduced by Ohio State Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Powell, earlier this month could pose big problems for the state's wind energy industry.
The legislation, Senate Bill 216, proposes to repeal Ohio's alternative energy portfolio standard (AEPS). The current AEPS, enacted in May 2008 under then-Gov. Ted Strickland, contains two separate resource requirements, both of which would be revoked if Jordan's bill were to become law.
The renewable energy portion of the AEPS requires 12.5% of the state's electricity generation to come from renewables such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, biologically derived methane gas, landfill gas, solid waste, fuel cells and certain hydroelectric facilities. This component of the AEPS includes enforceable annual benchmarks, as well as carve-outs for solar energy.
The second segment of the program, dubbed "advanced energy resources," imposes a requirement that another 12.5% of the state's electricity be obtained from other sources such as nuclear, "clean" coal, energy efficiency and demand response, and does not include specific benchmarks.
Jordan claims the AEPS drives up the cost of energy for Ohio families and businesses, and denies that the state's renewable energy industry will have a positive impact on jobs in the state.
"With one of the worst recessions in recent memory still fresh in our minds, the last thing we need to do in Ohio is drive up the cost of energy for both Ohio families and Ohio businesses, and that's exactly what the alternative energy portfolio standard does," Jordan said in a statement.
"Over the past three years, we've seen an emphasis on "green jobs' at the state and federal level, but studies show that in countries such as Spain, similar efforts have led to the destruction of 2.2 jobs in other sectors for every one of these "green jobs' created," he added. "Ohioans deserve our best efforts to lower energy costs for all consumers, and a positive environment for job creators to move Ohio's economy forward, and this bill does just that."
But the AEPS has already spurred wind energy development in the state. According to statistics from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Ohio has 67 MW of wind power currently online, 57 MW of which were added just this year.
However, Jordan's bill has the potential be disastrous to Ohio's nascent wind industry, Julian Boggs, state policy advocate for Environment Ohio, tells NAW.
"If the [AEPS] comes to a halt, wind energy development in the state could come to a near standstill," he states, adding that this would also apply to projects that are either still being planned or are already under development. Such projects include EverPower's 125 MW Buckeye Wind Project in Champaign County, as well as LEEDCo's proposed 20 MW to 30 MW offshore wind project in the Great Lakes.
In fact, according to AWEA, the state has 3,683 MW of wind power in the queue, all of which could slide into oblivion if Jordan's bill were to pass.
The slight consolation, according to Boggs, is that even if the bill were to be passed, manufacturing in Cleveland might still continue, because the components produced would be supplied to projects in Pennsylvania and Indiana.
However, "The bottom line is, it would throw a wrench into our wind energy economy," he says.
On the other hand, according to Brian Kaiser, director of green jobs and innovation for the Ohio Environmental Council, the state's manufacturing industry, which includes 106 companies engaged in the wind energy supply chain, would not even be spared.
‘If Sen. Jordan's irresponsible effort is successful, Ohio can say goodbye forever to wind power installations and wind energy manufacturing jobs,’ he said in a statement.
Just a bill
So what are the chances that Ohio's renewable energy requirements will actually be repealed?
"Based on its weak early support, I would say that S.B.216 has little chance of passing as is," says Boggs.
The original AEPS passed with broad support in 2008, gaining an overwhelming bipartisan approval by a 125-1 vote. It is unclear what, specifically, prompted Jordan to introduce S.B.216, Boggs notes, adding that it comes in advance of the governor's energy summit, to be held late this month.
Still in its early stages, the legislation will be referred to the state's Energy and Public Utilities Committee, and Chairman David Daniels will decide whether or not the committee will vote on the bill. In the event of a vote, there would be hearings and a committee vote, and that would determine if the bill would be sent to the state's Senate and House for a vote.
It is unclear if Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich would sign the legislation. A spokesperson for the governor tells NAW that although they are aware the bill has been introduced, they cannot yet take a position on it.
Despite all the uncertainty, Boggs says the bill has sparked a debate worthy of the wind industry's attention.
"The bill's introduction is just the beginning of a conversation in the statehouse about Ohio's energy policy," he says, "and that has renewable energy advocates, investors and businesses nervous."