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Ohio GOP voters support green energy, efficiency programs and customer choice



Columbus – Ohio’s Republican voters and conservative independents are greener than state politicians might have believed.

They strongly support green energy and want to see more of it in Ohio, a new poll of only Republican and conservative independents has determined.

The poll also found:

  • That 82 percent of these conservative voters want the state to keep on requiring electric utilities to provide efficiency programs that help consumers cut their monthly bills.
  • That 85 percent want the state to continue the policy that gives them the right the choose their own power suppliers, even after hearing about their utility’s concerns about the option.
  • That 87 percent want utilities to continue crediting customers who have home solar systems for excess power they generate.
  • That 74 percent would increase research and development of battery storage technologies to increase the use of renewable power.
  • That 72 percent would advise Republican candidates to support energy efficiency and renewable energy policies.
  • That large majorities oppose ongoing utility efforts to convince law makers to scrap laws requiring power companies to provide renewable power — 62 percent would support a modified renewable standard requiring power companies to supply at least 5 percent renewable power over the next five years.In fact, most of these voters want a lot more renewable power in the mix, —  even if it raises their electric bills. Seventeen percent said they would pay $20 a month extra for renewable power. Nearly 50 percent said they would pay at least $5 more a month.
  • That 79 percent oppose surcharges to prop up old coal and nuclear power plants unable to compete well against gas-fired power plants.FirstEnergy is still arguing for special subsidies, though what it would be called and how the money would be used are no longer certain. AEP dropped its proposals and has sold off some its power plants to investors that would run them as independent power companies.Public Opinion Strategies, a Colorado-based polling company widely used by GOP candidates, talked to 400 registered Ohio Republican voters earlier this month, including some independents who said they voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 percent, adequate, considering that its findings are overwhelming.”The survey clearly demonstrates support among conservative voters for a broad rage of policies to encourage energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy,” wrote Lori Weigel, a partner in the polling firm.

    “The vast majority of voters in this conservative portion of the ideological spectrum say they would tell GOP candidates to back these kinds of policies. They think of renewable energy as a job creator, and place these sources of energy squarely in the mix of more traditional energy sources,” she wrote.

    “They even go so far as to be willing to pay more in higher electricity prices if renewable energy cost more.”

    The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, a group led by Mike Hartley, former Kasich administration director of public liaison, sponsored the poll. Hartley will take part in a City Club of Cleveland luncheon panel discussion today on conservatives embracing renewable energy policies.

    Hartley said the poll’s results clearly show that conservative voters want their candidates to support renewable energy policies and are more likely to vote for those who do. He said his group plans to talk to lawmakers and policy makers about the poll’s findings.

    “Elected officials understand polling numbers,” he said. “Numbers don’t lie.”

    He added that the poll did not strongly focus on the question of whether the state ought to return to traditional regulation, a topic the utilities have been talking to lawmakers about.

    The survey did include a question about wind farms and state rules determining now close a wind turbine can be to other properties.  GOP lawmakers slipped a new setback rule into a budget bill in 2014 that has effectively stopped all major wind development in the state. The poll found that 72 percent would support “more reasonable set-back limits for wind turbines.”

    The poll also measured how  voters feel about different kinds of power generation, including coal, nuclear and gas as well as wind and solar. It found that voters favor natural gas power plants and energy efficiency efforts, that solar is more popular than coal, wind or nuclear power.

By John Funk, The Plain Dealer 

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