COLUMBUS, Ohio (September 26, 2013) -- Legislation introduced by Ohio state Sen. Bill Seitz (R) would effectively gut the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, making the state more dependent on dirty fossil fuels while redirecting benefits meant for consumers back to the utilities, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Seitz’s proposal, S.B. 58, would redirect the benefits of energy efficiency efforts away from the consumers to the utilities while limiting what can be spent on energy efficiency – the cheapest source of power – regardless of how high electricity costs rise. The bill would also allow massive hydropower facilities in Canada to count toward the renewable energy targets.
“It’s abundantly clear that the only beneficiaries of Senator Seitz’s retrograde bill are those Ohio utilities and special interests that want to keep Ohio dependent on fossil fuels,” said Steve Frenkel, director of UCS's Midwest Office. “By watering down what counts as renewable energy and energy-savings that are good for Ohio families and businesses, the bill would reverse years of progress and send Ohio consumers’ hard-earned dollars out of the country rather than investing in local, clean energy sources.”
Earlier this month, UCS released "Managing Risk in Ohio: Clean Energy’s Role in a Reliable, Diverse Power Supply," a report that exposes the fuel-cost, reliability, and environmental and public health risks of Ohio’s dependence on fossil fuels. The report finds that the same clean energy laws that Seitz aims to weaken are helping to diversify Ohio’s power mix and bringing safe, clean, reliable, and affordable power to consumers.
“Energy efficiency programs implemented to comply with Ohio’s energy efficiency standard has generated nearly $1 billion in net savings for consumers to date,” said Frenkel. “This law is creating jobs and reducing the economic, environmental and public health risks associated with the state’s reliance on fossil fuels.”
These benefits are translating to public support as a majority of Ohioans support requiring utilities to obtain a portion of their electricity from renewable energy sources, according to a recent survey by Yale University.
Seitz, who joined a nearly unanimous group of democratically elected state lawmakers to pass Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards in 2008, has since reversed his stance and is now working to undermine the policies he once supported. Seitz served on the board of directors for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is urging states to water down or repeal their clean energy standards. ALEC’s energy policies have been formulated in consultation with coal companies and oil refiners, such as Peabody Energy and Koch Industries.
The group has made several efforts in the past to reverse these policies, but despite their efforts, not one renewable energy policy in the Midwest has been rolled back.
"ALEC has tried similar tricks in other states and failed across the board,” said Frenkel. "Ohioans will not stand by as out-of-state fossil fuel interests try to reverse their choice to use more clean energy."
In fact, Illinois and seven other Midwest states – Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin – have renewable energy standards in place. A total of 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, have such policies requiring utilities to obtain a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
More than 30 Ohio scientists, economists, engineers, and public health professionals with expertise in clean energy signed an open letter in June urging Seitz to work to maintain and ultimately strengthen the standards.