Ohio needs to let its two-year freeze on renewable energy mandates expire next year to become more competitive in the global marketplace, according to a report issued last week.
The report, which claimed to reflect the views of more than 70 experts and have online support from more than 10,000 Ohioans, highlights some of the successes Toledo has had with solar and wind projects.
It was compiled by a consortium of businesses, trade associations, nonprofit groups, and local government agencies that participated in a statewide initiative called Ohio’s Energy Future Tour, which traversed more than 700 miles.
Six regional forums were held over six months to gauge the public’s interest in former state mandates that required energy companies to pursue alternative sources of energy. In 2014 Gov. John Kasich signed a law freezing for two years Ohio’s mandate that utilities find at least 25 percent of their power from greener energy sources by 2025.
Led by FirstEnergy Corp. in Akron, utilities pushed state lawmakers for the timeout. Ohio became the nation’s first — and so far, only — state to do that.
A legislative committee has been studying the pros and cons.
Ohio’s Energy Future Tour went beyond traditional environmentalists to get thoughts from business leaders about the freeze.
Organizations contributing to the effort included the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Interfaith Power and Light, the Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Ohio Hospital Association, Small Business Majority, plus a number of environmental, conservation, and academic groups.
Greg Steenrod, vice president of business development for GEM Energy, a specialty contractor for Rudolph/Libbe Companies, cited solar panels and other efforts made by the Toledo Museum of Art and the Toledo Zoo during a conference call Wednesday with reporters.
Mr. Steenrod said ProMedica’s conservation practices are part of a “clean-energy economy” Ohio needs to become more competitive in the global marketplace.
He serves on the boards of ProMedica Flower Hospital and the Toledo School for the Arts.
Before the freeze, Ohio was moving in the right direction, signaling the business community that it supports renewable energy, he said, but the state now is “in a holding pattern.”
Tech giants like Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft need to know Ohio embraces renewable energy, said Stu Dalheim, Calvert Investments vice president of shareholder advocacy.
“This is a national and indeed a global trend. Hundreds of companies are making clean energy a priority,” Mr. Dalheim said.
Earlier this summer, Amazon said it was interested in building a $1.1 billion data center in central Ohio that would be fueled in large part by wind and solar power. Lawmakers said they would need to ease property setback requirements to accommodate wind turbines, raising the question of what investments Ohio might be missing because of the state’s strict rules on wind power and a two-year freeze on renewable energy mandates.
Greg Smith, president of Energy Optimizers USA, said Ohio needs more incentives for renewable power to comply with President Obama’s Clean Power Plan, an initiative to reduce greenhouse gases from coal-fired power plants that exacerbate climate change.
“All signs are that is moving forward on the federal level,” he said.
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