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Ohio Lawmakers Work To Freeze State’s Energy Efficiency Standards
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A measure to overhaul Ohioâ€™s energy policies is on its way to the House after the Senate held an early morning vote Thursday.
After a long day of meetings and a session that went late into the night, the Ohio Senate passed a new energy bill that would freeze the stateâ€™s efficiency renewable standards for two years.
The fact that it moves on to the House is a milestone in itself. The Senate has been working on this issue for a year and a half.
The standards were created by law in 2008. They set benchmarks for utilities to achieve a certain amount of energy efficiency and use a certain amount of renewable sources by 2025.
Republican senators, like Bill Seitz of Cincinnati, have said these standards are leading to higher electric costs for consumers. Since the start of 2013, proposed changes to the standards have taken many forms from a complete overhaul of the policies to an indefinite freeze.
The legislation that the Senate passed very early Thursday morning kept the freeze of the standards pending a review of their impact on costs to consumers. Only now, if the General Assembly doesnâ€™t act, those standards start back up in 2017.
Seitz, who spoke on the Senate floor, says he has nothing against efficiency and renewable energy.
â€œBut what this bill is about isâ€”mandates. They like to talk about standardsâ€”standardsâ€”sounds so nice itâ€™s a standard. Itâ€™s not a standards itâ€™s a mandateâ€”whether you want to pay or notâ€”you pay.â€
Democratic Senator Eric Kearney of Cincinnati has been vocally opposed to a straight up freeze of the standards and wants to find a way to keep the benchmarks while still studying the costs.
â€œWhile the rest of the United States and most parts of the world are moving towards embracing a more diverse energy portfolio in the opposite direction.â€
The Senate made more changes to the bill in the past week after reports that Gov. John Kasich was threatening a veto.
A recently added provision wouldâ€™ve let consumers opt out of their utilityâ€™s efficiency program if it started costing them too much. According to Seitz, Kasich urged the Senate to remove that language and did so, but not without debate.
â€œThe consumer opt out provision was in my opinion one of the best parts of the bill cause what weâ€™re gonna do is weâ€™re gonna tell everybody in Ohio what theyâ€™re paying for these mandates and if theyâ€™re paying more than 3% of the generation side of their billâ€™s cost in mandatesâ€”every consumerâ€”every consumer in Ohio could write a letter to their friendly local utility company and say â€˜I donâ€™t want to pay it anymore thank you very much.â€
Ted Ford is with Advanced Energy Economy Ohio which represents more than 400 alternative energy companies. He says this freeze on the standards will drive business away.
â€œBecause itâ€™s still a big question mark of whether or not theyâ€™re still in play and a lot of that investment which is planned at the momentâ€”something in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion in projects ready to go. That money will go someplace else.â€
On the other hand, Republican Senate President Keith Faber said keeping the standards might be unattractive to companies thinking about moving to Ohio.
The bill now goes to the House where the speaker has said heâ€™d like to pass it by the end of the month.