Legislation that could change how Ohio supplies its electric needs in the future is on hold for now as both sides remain at odds on a rewrite of Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency law.
Each side said it wants to keep the cost of energy low, but there’s not much agreement aside from that.
Last week, the Senate Public Utilities Committee canceled a plan to send Senate Bill 58 to the floor for a full chamber vote. But the committee will resume deliberations in 2014, said committee chairman and bill sponsor Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati.
The bill has undergone changes since it’s been pending, but at various stages has proposed limiting state mandates on the renewable power utilities must purchase from Ohio solar and wind facilities and allow utilities to recoup money for cutbacks in energy use by consumers.
The state’s watchdog agency the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, and Ohio Environmental Council have opposed the bill as backsliding from renewable energy commitments and the state businesses that have been built around it.
Seitz said Tuesday that without an effective compromise bill, he would explore legislation to erase altogether Ohio’s renewable mandates for solar, wind and other forms of power.
But as it stands now, he said, the compromise bill left the mandates mostly intact, requiring 25 percent of Ohio power to come from renewable or advanced sources by 2025, half from renewables. Seitz wants Ohio utilities to be able to purchase all that renewable power from other states. State law requires half the renewable power come from in-state facilities by 2025.
On Dec. 3, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel called out the legislation in a public letter to senators, saying it is bad for Ohioans’ electric bills. It estimated that under the bill being considered last week, Ohio’s four million households could pay, on average, as much as $528 more for their electric service over a utility’s three-year energy efficiency plan.
The Manufacturers’ Association cited a research group at Ohio State University that projected the bill would cost Ohio electric ratepayers $3.65 billion over 12 years.
A day earlier, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business Ohio, Ohio Steel Council, Industrial Energy Users, among others, endorsed the bill.
“The current law places a high regulatory burden on Ohio’s businesses, including the utilities,” Charlotte Hickcox, Director, Energy & Environment for the Chamber, said. “Ohio’s businesses – large and small – are collectively paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually for energy efficiency programs.”
Said Hickcox Monday: “From our perspective the bill is not dead. We are still working toward a compromise. We needed a break to see where things are.”
Marty Berkowitz, spokesman for the Consumers’ Counsel, called the Senate Committee’s cancellation of its vote good news for Ohioans. “We appreciate that Ohio senators studied the legislation’s impact on electric customers. While the vote was canceled this month, we remain concerned that in January the electric utilities may continue their efforts to weaken consumer protections in Ohio’s energy law.”