A big hooray for Sandusky County where the County Commissioners have rescinded their designation as an Alternative Energy Zone (AEZ). The vote cancelled the action taken 7 years ago. Readers will recall that the Seneca County Commissioners rescinded their AEZ earlier this summer and it took effect June 30th.
The OPSB Public Hearing for Seneca Wind, a project of sPower, was held on Tuesday in Tiffin. It was refreshing to hear that both PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo and Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Nino Vitale, attended in person. That is a first as far as we know. They were treated to many thoughtful arguments and concerns expressed by local citizens. We have attached the testimony of Walt Poffenbaugh (last link) who spoke to the issue of cumulative impacts of projects planned for the area. Walt demonstrated that the combined projects proposed for the area cover a territory nearly as large as metropolitan Columbus. We encourage all to read Walt’s substantive remarks. Given that the OPSB does not have rules that address cumulative impact, it will be interesting to see how this concern is dealt with in subsequent proposals.
Moments after the bill was passed, Gov. DeWine signed it into law and took off for the Ohio State Fair where he told reporters, “I think it accomplishes what we wanted to accomplish,” Gov. DeWine said. “It saves the jobs of the folks who devoted – many of them – many, many years to providing power for us.” “No. 2, it should bring about a small reduction in the cost to residential consumers as well as to commercial consumers,” he added. Gov. DeWine said he also was “happy to sign” the measure because he believes it will lead to long-term environmental benefits. He put his pen to the measure less than three hours after legislative leaders sent him the bill. “If we had lost our two nuclear plants, we would have lost 90% of our carbon-free production in the state of Ohio,” he said. “It just makes sense from a public policy point of view. It makes sense from a jobs point of view. It makes sense from the environment point of view.” “We would anticipate that our solar as well as our wind (industries) will continue to increase in the state of Ohio,” he said. “We have to recognize it is not the most optimal state for wind nor solar, but there is an industry in the state, and we want to encourage that to grow.”
Still reeling from the passage of HB 6, pro-wind and gas folks were quick to react to the new state of affairs. Statehouse news reports included:
Andrew Gohn, American Wind Energy Association
“Ohio consumers and manufacturers want greater commitment to renewable energy, not less. Yet, while many states are expanding access to cleaner sources of energy, Ohio’s legislature has chosen to take a costly step backward by weakening the state’s renewable portfolio standard,” said Andrew Gohn, Director, Eastern State Policy, AWEA. “House Bill 6 won’t make Ohio’s air cleaner, but it will hike consumer electric bills and send both jobs and clean energy investment to Ohio’s neighbors.”
Marnie Urso, Audubon Great Lakes (AUDUBON? REALLY?)
“Energy efficiency and renewable energy are vital components in protecting Ohio’s birds and wildlife from the threat of climate change and ensuring all Ohioans have access to safe and affordable energy. HB6 is a missed opportunity to enact comprehensive energy policy that would keep pace with the rest of the region and country which is embracing the future of abundant, affordable, renewable energy. This clean energy killing policy is not the investment in healthy air and economic growth that our state deserves.”
House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron)
“This was not an easy vote for some of our Democratic members, including myself. Democrats will always stand with hard-working Ohioans over corporations. HB6 was never a Democratic bill; it was never even a bipartisan, compromise bill. It was yet another example of the Majority Party playing games, forcing impossible choices between protecting the environment and keeping food on the table for 1,400 workers and their families. I hope that the companies who receive the taxpayer dollars from HB6 will honor their promise to protect the jobs at both nuclear plants and support these workers’ continued employment.”
Daniel Sawmiller, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
“While the rest of the nation is adding jobs left and right from one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, Ohio is sending a clear signal to the clean energy sector that they are not welcome in the state. HB6 is irresponsible economic policy. And if this mess of a bill passes, the rest of the nation will be looking closely at Ohio’s statehouse trying to understand the motivations for a bill that is so far out of line with what is happening everywhere else.”
Neil Waggoner, Sierra Club
“HB6 is bad government and politics in its most pure form. When the process starts with legislators’ demeaning low-income Ohioans and apologizing to utility lobbyists it’s no surprise the final legislative product increases customer bills every month for years to come. “With HB6, Ohioans get dirtier air, higher electric bills, and the understanding that the majority of their elected officials at the Statehouse are more concerned with making a bankrupt company happy, and helping out other utility companies for their foolish investments in failing coal plants, than taking care of their own constituents. “FirstEnergy and Ohio’s other electric utilities must be very satisfied with the legislators they financed today. Can those legislators’ constituents say the same?”
Ohio Conservative Energy Forum
“The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum (OHCEF) remains opposed to the passage of HB6. The bill takes our state backward and threatens tens of thousands of jobs throughout Ohio in the growing clean energy industry. “As supporters of an all-of-the-above energy policy, the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum has never been averse to nuclear energy, but we remain profoundly disappointed that the General Assembly did not use the opportunity presented in HB6 to further grow Ohio’s emerging clean energy economy. As OHCEF has maintained throughout the legislative process, the State of Ohio cannot afford to be left behind as a growing number of conservative states embrace renewable energy. “OHCEF will continue to support a free-market approach to a diversified energy portfolio that embraces all forms of energy generation – including nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewable energy. OHCEF will fight to reduce government regulation by fixing the current wind setback mandate and will seek distributed generation reforms that will give Ohioans the freedom to produce their own energy.”
Not to be outdone, the opponents of HB 6, fueled by natural gas hedge funds, filed a petition with the Ohio Secretary of State to overturn the law through a public referendum. (Guess somebody is going to get a referendum – what irony!) Calling themselves “Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts” the group is headed up by a veteran campaign strategist whose claim to fame was the 2009 casino gambling law. They will hit the streets soon to gather about a quarter of a million signatures to put the issue on the ballot. We hope Ohioans won’t vote “YES” to increase their electric bills!
Our friend and Time Magazine’s Hero of the Environment, Michael Shellenberger lauded the passage of HB 6 in a Forbes article. “Ohio nuclear plants provide eight times more electricity than all of the state’s solar and wind combined. Lawmakers around the world are increasingly taking note of the severe impact that industrial wind turbines have on wildlife. Industrial wind turbines today threaten several bird and bat species with extinction.
Conservationists and birders in Ohio have hotly opposed a proposal to build dozens of turbines on Lake Erie, which is home to dozens of threatened, endangered, and high-conservation value bird species
Then there is the economics. It would have cost $25 billion to replace Ohio’s nuclear plants with solar and $22 to replace them with wind — and taken 300 to 2,600 times more land.” With your continued support, we can make Ohio a leader in clean energy through support of nuclear while safeguarding wildlife and being efficient in our land use practices!
On the flip side, so-called environmentalist like Sierra and the renewable lobby, are having fits saying “the biggest effect of H.B. 6 may be the muting of Ohio’s renewable and efficiency standards. By weakening Ohio’s 12.5% renewable energy standard to 8.5% and further shrinking the standard by subtracting green energy purchases by large energy users, the bill blocks wind and solar development in a state that’s already a clean energy laggard, said Leah Stokes, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who’s writing a book on state renewable standards. Some of the nation’s largest wind energy developers have said Ohio’s existing restrictions on turbine placement, enacted in 2014 when the Legislature temporarily froze the renewable standards, have already steered investments to neighboring states. H.B. 6, they warned, would only continue to lessen their interest in the Buckeye State.”
In other news:
An assortment of articles reacting to the passage of HB 6 are included. In one, US Rep. Marcy Kaptur says “Ohio is now saddled with an energy policy that amounts to a “death wish” for growth. “The problem is that as you look at a region to invest in, we look less innovative. We look less inclusive. We look less creative,” Kaptur said. “And companies are looking to invest in places that have their act together and are looking at energy and the full portfolio of choices therein as we build a new energy future for our country.” We continue to point out that these so-called green companies like Amazon and Google are choosing to locate in metropolitan Columbus not Tiffin or Van Wert.
Republicans at the national level are addressing how to deal with emissions reduction by promoting greater investment in technology whether it be carbon capture or advanced nuclear energy. ““Climate change is real, and we need to address it. The question is, how do we do that?” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said. “I think we should support all ways of decreasing emissions, from traditional renewables to cleaned-up fossil fuels to nuclear to innovative new tech like carbon capture. The other side often would make us think that there’s only one way to address it — solar, wind, the Green New Deal.”
In New York, the Chautauqua County Legislature approved two motions unanimously that go against policies being passed by state officials. “On Wednesday, one of the motions was in opposition to construct wind turbine farms on Lake Erie. During last month’s legislature meeting, Robert Bankoski, D-Dunkirk, and Kevin Muldowney, R-Dunkirk, spoke about their opposition to the possibility of wind turbine farms on Lake Erie. Following the meeting, Bankoski said several other legislators who represent communities along Lake Erie followed up their comments by creating a motion to oppose wind turbines on Lake Erie.” We wish Ohio Counties would do the same and pass Resolutions in opposition to turbines in Lake Erie.
A group of U.S. wind tower manufacturers are pushing for tariffs on imported wind components, a move that some researchers say could raise costs for new projects by as much as 10% at a time the industry is already under pressure. The Wind Tower Trade Coalition asked the Commerce Department and U.S. International Trade Commission to impose tariffs against wind tower imports from Canada, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam in a petition this month. The manufacturers argued that components from the four countries are sold below the prices set in the 1930 Tariff Act.
Even though HB 6 will reduce electricity bills in the short term, there are continuing pressures on costs. The transition to a 100% renewable US power grid will need investment of up to US$4.5 trillion over the next 10 to 20 years, new analysis from Wood Mackenzie found. Wood Mackenzie estimates that about 1,600 gigawatts (GW) of new wind and solar capacity would be needed to produce enough energy to replace all fossil fuel generation in the US. Dan Shreve, Head of Global Wind Energy Research, said: “The mass deployment of wind and solar generation will require substantial investments in utility-scale storage to ensure grid resilience is maintained.”
About 900 GW of new storage will also be needed to ensure wind- and solar-generated power is available exactly when consumers need it. The scale of the challenge is unprecedented, requiring a complete redesign of the power sector.
New on our radar screen is the issue of transmission expansion and potential costs to ratepayers. “Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair Sam Randazzo began Monday’s daylong discussion of transmission investments with an appeal to stakeholders: “We need your help.” His request came as regulators sought in a daylong conference to grapple with rising spending on transmission projects, which in turn translates into higher consumer bills. “We need the help of stakeholders to proactively move forward,” Mr. Randazzo said. “We are seeing this large investment at a time where there is not much increase in total sales or demand.” The cost of that “massive amount of investment” spread over a customer base that’s not growing at an equal rate leaves just one outcome, the chairman continued. “There’s not much else that can happen when you do that other than very significant increases in prices – all of which may be necessary,” Mr. Randazzo said.”