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Published: Wednesday, 10/9/2013

Bills would cut green-power mandates


COLUMBUS — Supporters of mandates that utilities buy more power generated by renewable sources charged Wednesday that a new bill would “pull the rug” out from under industries that have made decisions to invest here because of that promise.

But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati), countered that requiring the purchase of more wind and solar power in Ohio is “much like mining for gold in an area that doesn’t have much gold.”

The Senate Public Utilities Committee, chaired by Mr. Seitz, heard testimony on a pair of bills.

Senate Bill 34, sponsored by Sen. Kris Jordan (R., Delaware), would outright repeal existing mandates enacted in 2008 that utilities find 25 percent of their power from renewable or advanced technology sources by 2025. That bill has been around in some form for several years but has languished without action.

In contrast, the just revised Senate Bill 58, sponsored by Mr. Seitz, would retain the standards but kill a current mandate that half of the renewable power purchased by utilities under those standards be generated within Ohio. The bill also retains a 0.5 percent carve-out on the renewable side exclusively for solar power, but that too would likely be affected by the loss of the buy-Ohio mandate.

“In 2008, the state of Ohio invited member companies of Ohio (Advanced Energy Economy) to Ohio, put out the welcome mat, (to) invest, build projects in energy efficiency and advanced renewable energy,” said Terrence O’Donnell, lobbyist for OAEP. Its members include a variety of electricity marketers like AEP Energy and IGS Energy, business groups like the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and a variety of companies involved in alternative energy sources like solar, wind, and biomass.

“These companies have made and will continue to make investments in communities across Ohio,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “... They’ve done everything asked of them. We urge the committee now not to pull the rug out from under them with a legislative bait and switch.”

Senate Bill 58 would also make it easier for auto plants, steel mills, and other heavy industrial users of power to have waived their compliance with a separate requirement that they reduce their electricity consumption 22 percent by 2025.

Critics argued that heavy energy consumers would get credit under the bill for efficiency improvements they would make anyway even if they aren’t motivated by standards.

Mr. Seitz, however, argued that the 2008 law was overdue for a tune-up, saying it was not “etched in stone like the Ten Commandments and cannot now be changed.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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