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Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 4/28/2013

Ohio’s law on clean energy must not be weakened

BY TED FORD

The Ohio Senate is reviewing our state’s clean-energy law to determine whether it should be rolled back or modified. But this law is working well, and state lawmakers should stay the course so that all Ohioans continue to see immediate and future benefits.

Five years ago, the General Assembly enacted a statewide energy plan intended to help control the costs of electricity for all Ohioans. The law created two programs — one designed to provide more choices for ratepayers to be energy-efficient, the other to diversify the state’s power supply to include renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biomass energy.

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In 2011, Gov. John Kasich strengthened the law by creating even more opportunities for Ohio manufacturers to save money on energy.

Ohio’s energy-efficiency program requires utilities to offer cost-effective ways for their customers to help ease demand and reduce the future price of electricity. These include rebates on energy-efficient appliances, energy audits, incentives to use improved lighting, and other tools to help businesses cut their energy costs.

Energy efficiency helps consumers; you use less electricity and save money. But consumers in northwest Ohio and across the state benefit from energy efficiency even if they don’t participate directly in a utility program.

As Ohio’s electric marketplace becomes more energy-efficient, we are reducing demand and lowering the overall price of electricity for all consumers, now and in the future. For example, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority’s innovative efficiency program is drastically reducing energy use in government buildings, saving taxpayers money.

Since the clean-energy law’s enactment in 2008, Ohio ratepayers have saved $3 on their utility bills for every dollar invested in energy efficiency. Total savings: more than $1 billion.

Just like the energy-efficiency requirements, the state’s commitment to diversifying its energy portfolio to include renewable-energy technologies has been a big success. That’s especially true in northwest Ohio.

The Blue Creek and Timber Road wind farms are the state’s two largest projects of their kind. They attracted $775 million in capital investment, employed 1,200 Ohioans during construction, and employ dozens of local companies as suppliers. Toledo, once the glass capital of the world, is now a national leader in making solar panels.

Besides these local economic benefits, the continued commitment to renewable-energy generation protects northwest Ohio ratepayers as well. Continuing to diversify the state’s energy portfolio with renewable resources helps control future price spikes for fossil fuels, whose cost volatility is well documented.

According to a recent report by the operator of the electricity grid that serves Ohio and neighboring states, adding 15,000 megawatts of wind energy to the system would save the average ratepayer $4 a month on his or her utility bill. There’s almost double that potential in already built or planned wind projects.

Equally important, Ohio’s energy law has stimulated local demand for new and more-efficient products and solutions. That demand has helped grow the advanced-energy industry in our state.

Ohio is home to more than 400 advanced-energy companies that employ 25,000 workers. Another 10,000 Ohioans work in the energy efficiency industry, from component manufacturers to providers of home weatherization services. Many of these businesses are in northwest Ohio.

The energy landscape is shifting in favor of cleaner and more secure, affordable, and reliable sources of energy. State lawmakers and Governor Kasich have had the foresight to position Ohio as a national leader in this booming industry. Now is not the time to roll back that progress.

Ted Ford is president and chief executive officer of Columbus-based Advanced Energy Economy Ohio.



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