Hearings begin. Will Ohio’s clean energy freeze melt?

Hearings were held in both the House and Senate this week on how to deal with the renewable energy mandates. In the House, Rep. Amstutz gave his sponsor testimony on HB 554 (attached). Among the points raised in the testimony were that the bill institutes an indefinite halt to the mandates justified by uncertainty in federal policy. The federal Clean Power Plan has been challenged in the US Supreme Court on the basis that the EPA has overreached its authority. If the court finds in favor of the EPA, Amstutz believes “there is a real question as to what, if any, credit Ohio could receive under the mandates of the federal Clean Power Plan from the policy mandates in our law from Senate Bill 221, which became effective in 2008.” Both Chairman Dovilla and Rep Amstutz said there was unanimous agreement that ALL forms of energy are needed.

During questioning, Rep Hagan asked what the difference with Seitz’s bill was and Amstutz replied his was narrower and only addressed the first point of the Energy Mandate Study Committee (EMSC) recommendations. Amstutz felt it important to deal in the “art of the possible” and simply tackle the freeze. Rep. Smith asked if the CPP was the only area of uncertainty and Amstutz said no but it was the overarching one. He added that he was there when the mandates were first enacted and it was definitely not a scientific process. Rep. Clyde said she was concerned about impacts on job development and Amstutz disagreed saying SB 221 was not the “gold standard” and issues related to jobs were down the road. Rep. Romanchuk wondered why energy efficiency was included and was told the two issues are related. Rep. Buchy thought rural electric companies who are not subject to mandates seem to be doing just fine in pursuing clean energy strategies. Rep. Hill, from coal country, expressed concerns about loss of coal jobs and the need for natural gas. He seemed inclined to want generation to occur inside the state of Ohio. Finally, Vice Chair Roegner said that Ohio is fertile ground for manufacturing the pieces and parts of renewable generators but that could be at risk if those manufacturers do not have access to affordable reliable power.

In the Senate, SB 320 was considered with sponsor testimony by Sen. Seitz (attached). He noted his legislation was designed to address the five broad recommendations of the EMSC:

Recommendation #1: Extend the SB 310 Freeze Indefinitely; Ø Recommendation #2: Provide an Expedited Process at the PUCO for the Review of New Utility Plans for Energy Efficiency; Ø Recommendation #3: Investigate and Ensure Maximum Credit for All of Ohio’s Energy Initiatives; Ø Recommendation #4: Switch from Energy Mandates to Energy Incentives; and Recommendation #5: Declare that the General Assembly Retains Statutory Authority with Respect to Energy Policy and Dispatch Protocols.

There were few questions for Senator Seitz but two notable moments in his “off script” remarks. First he noted that the definition of renewable energy would be expanded because, contrary to what wind and solar think, there are other clean energy sources that can play in the “sandbox”. Sen Seitz also said he is reasonable and invites negotiation. He noted that when the Governor’s office objected to an indefinite freeze, he put a limit of three years on it. He said they had other options like Jordan’s bill to terminate mandates now or the Amstutz bill to make the freeze go on indefinitely. He offered to include goals as well. Seitz feels incentives are better than mandates….

Legislative proposals that would extend a freeze on Ohio’s clean-energy standards got their first hearings on Wednesday, with one sponsor saying he seeks an “earnest discussion.” Lawmakers are continuing to push for the extension despite Gov. John Kasich’s objections to the idea, and the continuing opposition of environmentalists and many businesses…

Source: Hearings begin on extending freeze of Ohio clean-energy standards