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Monday, December 22, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 4/6/2013

Keep it clean

Ohio's clean-energy law is creating jobs, promoting advanced manufacturing and small business, diversifying the state’s power supply, improving public health by reducing pollution, and lowering utility bills. Continued investment encouraged by the law will accelerate all of these advantages. State government shouldn’t even think of weakening it.

The law requires utilities to generate 12.5 percent of their retail electricity sales in the state from renewable sources — such as wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower — by 2025. It includes steps to cut Ohioans’ energy consumption by 22 percent by the same date.

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The energy standards law prevents utility customers from having to pay excessively to meet its mandates. The law should be maintained and strengthened — not gutted or even repealed, as some state lawmakers seek.

Five years after the law was enacted, 400-plus companies now employ more than 25,000 Ohioans in clean-energy jobs. Not incidentally, greater use of renewable energy helps improve the environment and limit climate change.

A wind farm in Paulding and Van Wert counties in northwest Ohio generates enough electricity to power 76,000 homes a year. Our region also has become a solar manufacturing hub; the state law places special emphasis on solar power.

Local companies such as Owens Corning and First Solar supply advanced-energy markets. The University of Toledo operates an alternative-energy research incubator.

Energy-efficiency initiatives, from home insulation to high-tech engineering, account for more than 10,000 jobs in our state. For every dollar invested in energy efficiency, Ohio ratepayers save $3 on their utility bills.

Yet some members of the General Assembly, either to indulge their free-market absolutism or to curry favor with conventional-energy interests, want to roll back the law’s mandates, claiming they impose excessive costs on consumers. They don’t: The price of renewable power in Ohio continues to drop dramatically.

Ohio isn’t alone in facing this legislative threat. Of the 29 states with some form of renewable-energy mandates, nearly half face proposals that would weaken or eliminate them.

Repeal or rollback is the priority of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative organization largely populated by Republican state lawmakers — a number of them from Ohio — and business executives, many of them from fossil-fuel companies.

The state Senate’s Public Utilities Committee has launched a review of the Ohio clean-energy law. But it’s questionable how objective a study the committee intends to conduct. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), recently told the Wall Street Journal that the Ohio law reminds him of “Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan.” Mr. Seitz is an ALEC board member.

Ted Ford, president of Advanced Energy Economy Ohio, which represents renewable-energy and energy-efficiency companies and advocates, told The Blade’s editorial board that global energy demand is likely to increase by 40 percent over the next two decades. Diversifying Ohio’s energy portfolio, he says, will hold down consumer rates — and risks.

“As long as the wind’s blowing and the sun’s shining,” Mr. Ford says, “renewable energy has zero fuel costs.”

American Electric Power said recently that its energy-efficiency programs have saved its customers more than $1 billion. But First Energy is less enamored of the clean-energy law, and many lawmakers evidently share that disdain.

An attempt to ram through a measure to weaken the law failed during last year’s lame-duck session, reportedly because Republican Gov. John Kasich held up a stop sign. It’s to be hoped the governor would be equally skeptical of a similar effort this session.

Ohio spends more than $40 billion a year on energy. Nearly four-fifths of this energy comes from coal, most of it imported from out of state. The clean-energy law can curb this overreliance — if lawmakers will just leave it alone.



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