Three Ohio state senators recently introduced a bill that would repeal elements of the state’s alternative energy requirements, reneging on a commitment the state made only three years ago and potentially hurting a growing industry.
State Bill 216, which was introduced by State Sen. Kris Jordan of Powell and co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, would repeal the requirement that 25 percent of the state’s consumer electricity come from alternative energy sources by 2025.
The so-called “25 by 25” provision was a key component of Ohio’s 2008 energy law – SB 221 – which was a priority of then-Governor Ted Strickland. Thirty nine states have similar provisions, known as renewable portfolio standards (RPS). Current Ohio Gov. John Kasich recently hinted that he supports a rollback of Ohio’s “25 by 25” RPS.
Supporters of SB 216 argue that the cost of alternative energy is too high and the industry has not created enough jobs, so the 25 percent requirement is hurting the state’s economy. But the “job killing” rhetoric is misplaced when discussing renewable energy such as solar and wind. The cost of producing such energy is falling as the technology improves; meanwhile, public utilities are relying on decades-old plants that will need to be upgraded or even decommissioned, which will not be free of cost to ratepayers.
As it is written, SB 216 would not only kill future projects, it would penalize projects that are currently up and running – projects that were started in the wake of SB 221, when Ohio’s leadership advocated investing in the alternative energy industry and offered incentives to do so. Many solar adaptors rely on recouping their investment by selling Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) to the public utilities, which in turn helps the utilities reach their quota of renewable energy. If SB 216 shrinks or removes the quota, it would essentially remove the incentive that was promised to those solar adaptors.
Ohio has a viable solar energy/manufacturing industry, notwithstanding the recent high-profile bankruptcies of solar companies in California and Massachusetts. Production and installation costs are falling precipitously, and rooftop solar panels have created long-term energy savings and short-term income for a wide range of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.
Besides the obvious environmental benefits, Ohio’s RPS has spurred a strong new industry that is not raising electricity costs.