The year 2013 was a renewable energy roller coaster in the Ohio State House. On the positive side, after the Senate Public Utilities Committee spent about a year reviewing Ohio’s energy mandates, Substitute Senate Bill 58 was introduced to significantly alter both the energy efficiency and renewable requirements for Ohio. A companion bill, House Bill 302 was introduced in the House Public Utilities Committee in order to move the process along. Senate Committee Chairman Bill Seitz was confident that the bill would pass the Senate before year-end. That did not happen due to lack of support from several Republican Committee members – Sen. Cliff Hite from Findlay representing Van Wert and Paulding Counties and Sen. Frank LaRose from the Cleveland area where wind proponents are eager to put turbines in Lake Erie.
The important point to understand is that no one needs a state mandated directive to build a wind turbine – anyone can put one up. But both Hite and LaRose claim that wind development probably won’t happen without mandates. Hite and LaRose are not representing the best interests of Ohioans. They are representing the special interests of the wind industry whose product is so ill-suited to Ohio that they require mandates.
If federal and state subsidies as well as state mandates are renewed, this could well be how Everpower (central Ohio) will market its stock once Terra Firma is spun off. “A stable investment backed by Ohio renewable energy mandates and subsidized by the federal taxpayer through the Production Tax Credit, by Ohio consumers who are paying triple the cost for wind electricity and the people of Champaign County through generous tax abatement.”
During the course of the year, a federal court noted that Michigan’s mandate to purchase in-state generated wind was a violation of the US Commerce Clause and therefore was unconstitutional. Senator Seitz believes Ohio’s in-state mandate is also unconstitutional. While SB 58 will continue to be debated, another bill introduced by Senator Kris Jordan, to repeal outright the renewable energy mandate will also be heard in Committee. The pressure will continue. The role of Senator Keith Faber, President of the Senate, will be key.
In other 2013 legislative action, the wind industry gained two victories during the state budget process. Rather than debating in an open, public forum, Senator Chris Widener from the Springfield area helped the wind industry derail efforts to increase setbacks and require measurement from property lines. Setbacks were slightly increased to 1,125 feet from a home but this was a meaningless increase as almost all projects currently meet that standard. Efforts to require 1,250 feet failed. In addition, Widener extended the life of the PILOT program for tax abatement that was scheduled to expire on December 31st.
We look forward to continuing the Ohio battle in 2014 and know that the wind industry will redouble its efforts. Many of the Ohio House Representatives were not in office when the energy mandates were enacted and a number appear to be weary of the industry’s relentless efforts to keep the spigots open. The price of natural gas in Ohio will continue to have a significant effect on the course of energy policy as well as any initiatives coming out of the White House. Sen. Seitz continues to be motivated and the Governor is looking wobbly. At the Ohio Chamber, the Governor was reported to say:
“What we do by mandating these things is we put some people who are in manufacturing in a very difficult position. You drive up their costs and you put people out of work.” he said in response to a question during the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s year-end event. “Now I don’t think we should do away with renewable standards or renewables or anything,” he added. “But let’s be practical about how to get there. If we have to delay the implementation for a couple of years, that’s fine because we don’t want people to go out of work.”
The Governor has an election coming up and he may be hamstrung by the need for votes in the Cleveland area. Time will tell….
Electricity prices in Ohio have risen approximately triple the national average since Ohio enacted renewable power mandates in 2008. The sharp rise in electricity prices occurred despite promises during 2008 legislative hearings that renewable power mandates would have little or no impact on electricity prices.
In 2008 the Ohio legislature passed legislation creating the state’s renewable power mandates. Under the mandates, Ohioans must purchase 25 percent of their electricity from designated renewable sources by the year 2025.Sharply Rising Prices
Since 2008, U.S. electricity prices have risen merely 3 percent. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. electricity prices were 9.81 cents per kilowatt hour in 2008. As of September 2013, the latest date for which EIA published electricity prices when this article went to press, U.S. electricity prices were 10.13 cents per kilowatt hour.
In Ohio, by contrast, electricity prices since 2008 have risen 9 percent. EIA reports Ohio electricity prices in 2008 were 8.44 cents per kilowatt hour. As of September 2013, Ohio electricity prices were 9.19 cents per kilowatt hour.Directly Traceable to Renewables
The rise in Ohio electricity prices closely tracks the increasing generation of costly renewable power. Wind power comprises nearly all renewable power generation in Ohio. Since 2008, Ohio has quintupled the share of its electricity mix generated from wind power. In 2008, according to EIA, Ohio generated 0.4 percent of its electricity from wind power. As of September 2013, 2.1 percent of Ohio’s electricity was wind-generated.