EAMON QUEENEY | DISPATCH FILE PHOTO Wind turbines generate electricity on a farm straddling Paulding and Van Wert counties in northwest Ohio.
Result could be reduction, not repeal, of benchmarks
Ohio’s clean-energy benchmarks are more likely to be reduced than repealed, according to the leaders of a special legislative panel that has been studying the topic.
The Energy Mandates Study Committee held its final meeting on Monday, and its members have until Sept. 30 to deliver recommendations to Ohio House and Senate leaders.
The panel’s work is required by a bill passed last summer that also placed a two-year freeze on state standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The committee’s goal is to study the costs and benefits of the standards and consider making changes before the freeze lifts at the end of 2016.
“I think everything is still on the table,” said Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville. He leads the committee along with Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson.
Some observers have speculated that the panel might wait to see the potential effects of pending federal carbon rules. That is not the case, Roegner said. “We’ll move forward and do what’s right for the state of Ohio,” she said.
So, if the panel is going to make recommendations, what might they be?
Balderson supports one particular approach: “I’d like to see the standards go down somewhat,” he said.
By that, he means he favors a reduction in the annual increases in the benchmarks.
Under current law, when the freeze ends in 2016, electricity utilities will need to make annual increases in their purchases of renewable energy, working toward a goal of 12.5 percent of their total by 2027.
For energy efficiency, utilities will need to have programs that help consumers reduce energy use, extending toward a goal of 22 percent savings by 2027.
It remains to be seen how a reduction in benchmarks would work.
Some legislators want to see a repeal of the benchmarks. That has not attracted enough support to receive a full debate, partly because of doubts that Gov. John Kasich would sign such a measure.
The clean-energy benchmarks came into being with a 2008 law, and the freeze was passed last summer after a long and bitter debate.
Electricity utilities and some large businesses argued that the rules were too costly to follow and would lead to increases in utility bills.
The rules have been defended by environmental groups, clean-energy businesses and consumer advocates.
Committee member Rep. Mike Stinziano, D-Columbus, said he continues to support the energy benchmarks and hopes the rules remain at least mostly intact.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think I heard much (in committee hearings) that would lead me to think we shouldn’t maintain the standards and have Ohio continue to be a leader in energy-efficiency standards,” he said.