Steve Melink is President of Melink Corp.
A change to the state of Ohio’s clean energy policy has left one Cincinnati firm reaching out to other areas to keep its business running.
Steve Melink, president of Melink Corp., said the state legislature’s decision to remove renewable energy requirements for companies has left the four business units he runs searching for projects.
Ohio Senate bill 221 passed in 2008 and was focused on reducing the state’s dependence on fossil fuels by creating requirements for clean energy usage. That law was changed in 2014 with the passage of SB 310, which freezes and weakens many of the previous bill’s requirements, including a rule that half of all renewable generation occur in-state and one that set an energy efficiency standard to provide utilities credits for efficiency savings.
“Our growth accelerated mostly after SB 221 was passed,” Melink said on a call hosted by Environment Ohio to discuss the law change and its effects. “(The state) had to diversify for cleaner air and to benefit our economy, security and health.”
While SB 221 was still in effect, Melink said the company was flush with projects similar to installing a solar canopy at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
“SB 310 killed the market,” Melink said. “It forced us to look at richer opportunities in other states.”
Melink said that has led to the firm committing millions of dollars to other states and paying taxes there rather than in Ohio where it’s headquartered.
“It’s a huge lost opportunity for Ohio as a state,” he said. “There was a long-term vision for what we should and can become, and then things got political.”
Melink said utility companies lobbied to have the clean energy rules reversed, which led to the passage of SB 310 in 2014.
“We need to build an energy structure that’s more akin to the Internet,” with multiple sources and pathways, Melink said.
According to Environment Ohio, the state’s residents are also paying a price for the change to clean energy policies. It estimates that in 2016 Hamilton County will miss out on enough energy savings to power 16,701 typical Ohio homes plus the equivalent of 561 new solar rooftops. If the clean energy freeze is made permanent, the Cincinnati area could miss out on solar generation equivalent to 6,956 solar roofs and electricity savings worth $431 million based on current rates in the year 2025. The group’s Research and Policy Center released a report detailing other losses across the state on Thursday entitled “Progress on Hold,” which is available in full here.
Melink landed among the fastest-growing Greater Cincinnati private companies that were honored at the Courier's Fast 55 awards luncheon on Thursday. You can see all of the finalists and winners here.