With upcoming tougher federal regulations on emissions on coal and natural gas-fired power plants you’d think it might be a good time to support cleaner, alternative forms of energy like solar or wind power. You’d think that, but apparently that’s not the case—at least in Ohio. The Buckeye State is bucking the trend toward clean energy with the passage of S.B. 310 by state Senate and General Assembly Republicans, which freezes the state’s renewable energy portfolio requirements in its tracks at 2014 levels—for at least two years. It’s the first real victory for the anti-clean energy opponents in the U.S.
Originally the bill was even more draconian to the state’s renewables and energy efficiency efforts, freezing them indefinitely. It’s a staunch reversal for the state, which enacted its renewable energy and energy efficiency bill in 2008 with only one vote against the policy. Yesterday’s vote was along party lines, with Republicans voting for the legislation. It will now head to Republican Governor John Kasich’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law.
Previously Kasich stated: "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.” He added, “They are simply unrealistic and will drive up energy costs for job creators and consumers.” He offered a glimmer of hope: “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.” But effectively by halting progress of renewable energy growth in the state it could kill the jobs—more than 3,800 of them by the Solar Energy Industries Association’s count, in solar alone—in a state with higher unemployment rates than most others.
The renewables energy industries in the state raised their voices to the deaf ears of Ohio’s legislators and voters. A poll commissioned by the League of Conservation Voters in early May found that 77 percent of those polled supported more renewable energy in the state. However, only 18 percent of respondents had even heard of the bill that was sneaking through the state’s legislative chambers.
Clean energy and solar industry leaders also opposed the bill. In a letter to the Senate President earlier this month by ten of the companies, including First Solar—which is headquartered there, they stated: “Our companies collectively employ over 3,500 Ohioans and we are opposed to permanently freezing the renewable energy standards at 2014 levels.
The companies wrote that “in 2008, the state of Ohio made a commitment to requiring utilities to gradually increase their use of renewable energy to 12.5 percent by 2025. This policy has brought more than $1 billion in private capital investment to Ohio over five years and has created more jobs in the renewable energy sector by component part manufacturers and developers.”
“Freezing the renewable portfolio standard at the 2014 level of 2.5 percent halts this progress and clearly suggests Ohio is not interested in further capital investment, job creation, economic and environmental benefits that renewable energy provides,” the companies stated. “Undermining the renewable standard is the wrong path for Ohio, its residents, and businesses.”Tweet