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Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 7/29/2014

EDITORIAL

In Ohio, clean energy is a sound investment

By turning its back on renewable energy, Ohio is missing out on the potential for new businesses

BY DANIEL STRANAHAN AND TIMOTHY SMITH

RENEWABLE-energy policies help businesses and investors save money, create jobs, and reduce carbon pollution. The recent move by Ohio politicians to freeze the state’s renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards shows they are not thinking ahead. We need to support policies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new Clean Power Plan, which helps us invest in a clean-energy future and cut pollution.

The Needmor Fund is a family foundation that works with others to bring about social justice. We are headquartered in Toledo, and work to help support access to public participation in a democratic society.

Climate and energy policy is an important part of supporting social justice. That’s why we invest in companies that consider the environment as well as their bottom line. This strategy allows us to honor our values and achieve good returns.

For the past five years, Ohio has been a clean-energy success story. Renewable energy allowed Campbell Soup and General Motors to build manufacturing plants with solar power in Napoleon and Toledo, respectively. Other companies such as Staples, Assurant, and Walgreens have installed solar panels on the roofs of local facilities.

Ohio’s renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards, enacted in 2009, have helped the state create 25,000 jobs and are credited with saving Ohio consumers more than $1 billion. Unfortunately, Ohio politicians chose to ignore these successes and voted to freeze these clean-energy standards. Ohio is the first state to roll back its clean-energy policies.

We are deeply concerned that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Heartland Institute vigorously lobbied to weaken our state’s common-sense clean-energy policies. Companies that belong to ALEC contribute to well-coordinated campaigns to freeze, eliminate, and weaken clean-energy policies, in Ohio and around the country.

These actions aren’t good for business. Instead, they create policy uncertainty for companies that are looking to plan and invest for the future.

A new report from Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability group, concludes that nearly half the Fortune 500 companies have targets for greenhouse-gas reductions, energy efficiency, or renewable energy. Companies are making a priority of clean energy, and are investing and expanding in states that have supportive policies. By turning its back on renewable energy and energy efficiency, Ohio is missing out on the potential for new businesses and investments across all sectors.

The EPA Clean Power Plan provides another opportunity for Ohio to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and to innovate to develop a clean-energy economy. Opponents claim that the state’s renewable-energy policies have raised electricity prices. This is false.

Since 2008, energy costs have increased, but this is not the result of Ohio’s investment in clean energy. The need to retrofit coal-fired power plants to meet new health and safety standards has raised prices. Energy-efficiency incentives, to the contrary, are saving consumers billions of dollars.

Renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards are key to investing in a more sustainable future, and meeting the EPA’s carbon-pollution standards for existing power plants. A commitment to clean-energy policies will help attract businesses that are looking to meet their internal energy goals.

Ohio’s policy makers should support policies that are good for businesses and the environment.

Daniel Stranahan is secretary-treasurer of the Toledo-based Needmor Fund. Timothy Smith is a Needmor investment manager and director of environmental, social, and governance shareowner engagement at Walden Asset Management in Boston. The Needmor Fund and Walden Asset Management are members of the Investor Network on Climate Risk.



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