COLUMBUS — Ed FitzGerald, Gov. John Kasich’s Democratic opponent in November, on Tuesday urged the governor to reject an energy bill that may soon reach his desk that the Cuyahoga County executive called “devastating for northwest Ohio.”
The House Public Utilities Committee could vote today on Senate Bill 310, which would halt Ohio’s current renewable energy mandates in their tracks for two years while the state rethinks its long-term energy policies.
Ohio would become the first state in the nation to move away from its green energy commitment of six years ago.
The step backward has become an issue in Mr. Kasich’s campaign for re-election.
“We are on the verge of making one of the biggest public policy mistakes we’ve seen in this state in many years,” Mr. FitzGerald said in a conference call with reporters. “... We were told the utilities in Ohio would try to get these [mandates] rolled back. ... It passed so overwhelmingly [in 2008] that we thought that wouldn’t happen, but unfortunately they’ve had a long-term strategy that you are now seeing the fruits of, and it’s a very bitter fruit.”
Mr. Kasich’s office recently helped to negotiate a compromise that does away with the open-ended freeze that supporters of Senate Bill 310 wanted.
“The environmentalists and the bankers who paid for their wind and solar projects want zero changes to Ohio’s flawed renewable energy standards, while those on the other side would like to scrap renewable energy altogether,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said. “Neither extreme is right.”
“Ohio needs new, renewable energy sources, and they’ll need subsidies to get on their feet, but the current standards are unachievable, however, and threaten Ohio’s ongoing economic recovery,” he said. “The governor will continue to chart a balanced approach — more renewable energy, solid support for them, and fostering our jobs-friendly climate — and oppose the extremes that are inconsistent with what Ohio’s all about.”
Susan Monroe, president of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce, called the wind turbines that have popped up along Route 30 “the only economic catalyst to come along for northwest Ohio in some time.”
Current law requires Toledo Edison’s parent, FirstEnergy, and other public utilities to find 25 percent of their power from renewable sources such as wind and solar and new technology like fuel cells, improved nuclear, and cleaner-coal by 2025.
At least half of that, 12.5 percent, must come from true renewable, and 0.5 percent must come from solar. Half of the renewables must be purchased from Ohio sources. The law also requires utilities to reduce their energy consumption by 22 percent by 2025.
Senate Bill 310 would freeze for 2015 and 2016 the renewable and solar power mandates at their 2014 annual benchmarks of 2.5 percent and 0.12 percent, respectively. It also would eliminate the buy-Ohio provision for renewable power.
During the two-year freeze, a new 13-member committee would study the mandates and make recommendations to lawmakers for changes by Sept. 30, 2015. If the General Assembly fails to act, the standards would resume in 2017 but where they left off in 2015.
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.