The statewide tour of Ohio’s Energy Future issued its final report Wednesday after a 10-month outreach running nearly as long as the current legislative “freeze” on advanced energy mandates that the tour has sought to answer. Its conclusions come as no surprise: renewable energy and energy efficiency (EE) standards should be reinstated; mandates should seek compliance with the federal Clean Power Plan; distributed generation and other forms of decentralized supply should be increased; and strict setback requirements for wind farms should be repealed.
The Energy Future tour, a collaboration of businesses, trade associations, nonprofits and local governments, said those goals are backed by a diverse group of supporters including representatives of advanced energy, manufacturing, institutions of higher learning, public health, agriculture, banks, foundations and financial portfolio managers, evidenced by their participation at six regional forums in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Cincinnati and Athens beginning last November.
“Frustration with public policy changes that impede the continued emergence of this industry could be seen in all sectors across the state,” the report said in a veiled reference to energy “freeze” 130-SB310 (Balderson). “Over the course of the tour, Ohioans repeatedly expressed their support for strong clean energy policies that grow the economy in Ohio, create jobs, generate tax revenue and protect public health and the environment.”
President Greg Smith of Energy Optimizers, who joined a press call on the final report with Dale Arnold, director of energy, utility and local government policy for the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), said renewables, EE and other advanced energy mandates under 127-SB221 (Schuler) were working just fine before the Legislature passed and the governor signed SB310.
“We question the need to review the standards for this extended period since they were helping lower costs and create jobs,” Smith said.
Another participant, Stu Dalheim, vice president for shareholder advocacy at Calvert Investments, noted that many Fortune 100 companies have recognized the upside of clean energy with new investments, while businesses like Amazon, Facebook, Google and eBay are seeking energy independence through new technology.
“This is especially true for the proliferation of data centers across the country, as nearly all technology companies have sustainability goals to be 100 percent powered by renewable energy by certain dates in time,” the report said.
Ohio’s Energy Future said the old way of producing, distributing and consuming electricity no longer meets the needs of many consumers, including businesses.
“Policies that continue to favor the traditional system undermine the emerging competitive market for generating and using energy in innovative ways,” it said. “Larger commercial and industrial consumers can enhance reliability and realize costs savings through installation of distributed generation, and smaller businesses and residents can exercise greater control over the source and price of electricity through community aggregation.”
Arnold said “decentralized” sources of energy are of particular interest to the agriculture community in Ohio.
Participants in the press call were asked about either side of the “level playing field” debate between fossil fuel and renewable sources. Dalheim reiterated the point that the oil and gas industry had long enjoyed government incentives, which Vice President Greg Steenrod of GEM Energy said are particularly effective at the front end of energy investments. He turned that analysis to solar energy.
“Yes, you would see the cost has decreased significantly, but it’s too early to stop [the mandates],” Steenrod said.
Participants were also asked about certain advantages enjoyed by fossil fuel generators, including various electric bill riders and Ohio severance tax rates well below those of other states — the latter noted by Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) of the Energy Mandates Study Committee. (See The Hannah Report, 6/1/15.) They passed on the question.
Energy Future’s full report and executive summary can be found on the Hannah News homepage at www.hannah.com > Important New Documents.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on September 9, 2015. Copyright 2015 Hannah News Service, Inc.