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Published: Thursday, 9/22/2011


Back renewable energy


State and federal officials who are attending Gov. John Kasich's energy and economic summit in Columbus would do job-starved northwest Ohio a real service by committing to investment in renewable energy for the long run.

A new report by Joe Perlaky, a University of Toledo program manager and an expert on renewable power, studied businesses in and around the Toledo-based 9th U.S. House District. It concludes that a lack of reliable financial support is the greatest factor limiting job growth in our area's otherwise promising renewable energy sector.

Mr. Perlaky found that renewable-energy manufacturers and owners of related businesses are frustrated over government grants that are tied to election cycles. They told him they would have an easier time hiring people if funding commitments were five to 10 years long, even if that meant fewer grant opportunities.

Plenty of funding programs exist, Mr. Perlaky says. Yet would-be employers are reluctant to hire when most grants last only a year, maybe two.

"The business community starts chasing its tail," Mr. Perlaky, a Green Energy Ohio board member, told The Blade's editorial board. "If renewable energy is important to us, we need to seed some of this activity [for] a longer period."

Mr. Perlaky also calls on northwest Ohio to form an "alternative energy cluster initiative" that would involve the public and private sectors and academia. Such an initiative, he says, would emphasize northwest Ohio's advantages in solar energy, as northeast Ohio focuses on wind power, putting the state's northern tier in a better position to create wealth and business stability.

Greater continuity also would provide a better gauge for renewable energy's potential -- a process that nuclear power, coal, and natural gas already have undergone. That's why the Ohio General Assembly must reject a misguided proposal that would kill a landmark 2008 state law designed to promote renewable energy before it has had a chance to prove itself.

Oberlin College is compiling Mr. Perlaky's research and similar studies in other parts of Ohio in an upcoming report about the state's job-growth potential in renewable energy. Those in power should pay attention, if they truly want to help wean America from fossil fuels while expanding Ohio's job base.

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