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Saturday, August 02, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 9/28/2013

Editorials

No going back

Ohio’s clean-energy law continues to show its value; there is no reason for lawmakers to weaken it

Seitz Seitz
AP Enlarge

On issues of energy efficiency and options, state lawmakers won’t leave well enough alone. Another attempt is under way to weaken a vital state law that promotes clean, advanced energy, improving Ohio’s economy and environment.

New proposed changes aren’t as bad as past efforts to repeal the law. That doesn’t make them good. The energy law has proved its worth and should remain intact.

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The five-year-old law requires utilities to generate 25 percent of their retail electricity sales in Ohio by 2025 from nontraditional sources, divided equally between renewable energy and advanced technology. Renewable sources include wind, solar, biomass, and water power. Advanced sources include nuclear, fuel-cell, and clean-coal technology.

The state law also aims to cut energy costs by reducing Ohioans’ power consumption by 22 percent by 2025. Both mandates aim to curb Ohio’s chronic overreliance on coal: Our state now gets nearly 80 percent of its energy from dirty coal, most of it from out of state.

Utilities have made adequate annual progress to comply with the law. Yet some utilities, notably FirstEnergy, are advocating that it be watered down.

State Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), who chairs the Senate Public Utilities Committee, says his new proposal would not repeal the law’s key efficiency and alternative-energy mandates, as he has suggested previously. But it would eliminate a requirement that half of the state’s renewable energy must be generated in Ohio.

Alternative-energy producers, manufacturers, and investors say that mandate offers a powerful incentive for them to do business and create jobs in the state. Among them are the proprietors of a wind farm in Paulding and Van Wert counties in northwest Ohio that generates enough electricity to power 76,000 homes a year.

Senator Seitz observes that courts have thrown out, or considered challenges to, similar requirements in other states. But Ohio’s mandate has not been legally tested; if that should happen, it will be up to courts, not lawmakers, to judge the merits of such a challenge.

The proposed bill also would ease the process the law imposes on large industrial power customers to show that they are as energy-efficient as they should be. These energy users don’t need such help.

The law already prevents utility customers, residential and business, from having to pay excessive prices to comply with its standards. That provision never has been invoked; until it is, there is no reason to dilute it. At most, lawmakers may want to look at the relative burden the efficiency mandate is placing on energy users of different sizes.

A recent report from Ohio State University concludes that weakening the law would make the state less energy-efficient, threaten reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, and limit job creation in advanced- and renewable-energy industries. None of these outcomes is desirable.

Gov. John Kasich has expressed general support for the clean-energy law. He needs to be skeptical of proposals by his fellow Republicans in the legislature to gut the law — and to veto them, should it come to that.

The law has amply demonstrated its contributions to economic growth, a diversified power supply, pollution control, and improved public health. It has encouraged the creation of 25,000 clean-energy jobs in Ohio, and another 10,000 in energy-efficiency initiatives. For every dollar invested in efficiency, consumers save $3 on their utility bills.

There is no reason to jeopardize any of these advantages. Leave the clean-energy law alone.



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