Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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Keep energy efficiency first

Energy production is a national obsession, while energy conservation is too often overlooked. Some of Ohio’s largest investor-owned utilities may be determined to keep it that way to ensure a steady stream of profits.

If they succeed, Ohio could use more energy than it needs to power homes and businesses. And a good state law that requires a broader mix of energy sources could be weakened, leading to more pollution and less long-term economic stability.

The General Assembly needs to reaffirm its support for Ohio’s clean-energy law, which requires the state to get 25 percent of its power from nonconventional sources by 2025. Half of that share must come from solar, wind, biomass, and other forms of renewable energy. The rest can come from advances in coal and nuclear technology.

The law has an efficiency mandate that requires utilities to achieve reductions in energy use among their customers. Utilities have hit benchmarks with programs that encourage consumers to use energy-efficient lighting, add insulation, upgrade appliances, and perform audits to help seal leaks in homes and businesses.

Ohio’s largest utility, FirstEnergy Corp., claims the surcharges it is required to collect to pay for such promotional campaigns will become more costly once most of the easiest savings have run their course. Advocates of the energy law say the savings outweigh the surcharges.

FirstEnergy’s chief executive, Anthony Alexander, recently met with Gov. John Kasich to present the utility’s concerns. No bill that would weaken the energy law has emerged.

But the Ohio Environmental Council fears a proposal is coming that would suspend enforcement of the energy-efficiency provisions of the law for as long as six years. The council believes lawmakers will get a rollback proposal in their lame-duck session after Election Day, in the hope it will be pushed through with scant public attention before a new legislature takes office in January.

Lawmakers should not take the bait. The clean-energy law passed in 2008 with strong bipartisan support. Manufacturers and developers in the clean-energy sector cannot achieve their potential if lobbyists for utilities and other special interests persuade Columbus politicians to meddle with the law.

Ohio needs a strong clean-energy law, including a conservation effort that works with development of renewable sources to help break old consumption habits. Lawmakers should reject any proposal that would dismantle the state’s energy-efficiency requirement.

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