Five years ago, state lawmakers overwhelmingly approved legislation designed to advance renewable energy and promote energy efficiency. Since last fall, state Sen. Bill Seitz, encouraged by FirstEnergy and others, has argued that the moment is right for reviewing the law, for examining its strengths and weaknesses. That makes sense, and Seitz has proposed adjustments.
Yet just as logical is the wisdom in pushing forward on both fronts, Ohio embracing cleaner energy alternatives and improved efficiency, both helping to address climate change, the latter adding the element of savings. Thus, any effort to redraw portions of the law must be made with care, ensuring that the state doesn’t lose ground. Ohio has benefited overall from the requirement that utilities by 2025 provide one-quarter of their electricity from alternative sources and reduce consumer consumption 22 percent.
On Tuesday, the benefits were made clear in a report from the Center for Resilience at Ohio State University. The study was commissioned by the advanced and renewable energy industry. Still, its methods and findings ring as sound and credible, echoing in many ways what others have found.
The study looked at two scenarios: what if the current renewable and efficiency standards were not enacted and what would be the impact of implementing changes that Seitz has proposed.
Under the first scenario, consumers would not receive the benefit of improvements in energy efficiency, or the estimated ratepayer savings of $230 million since 2008. The gains in efficiency have more than offset increased generation costs.
Neither would the state have achieved a 1.9 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Under the second scenario, eyes on the 2025 marker, the study projects the state failing to reap efficiency savings of $300 million per year or greenhouse gases falling 7.5 percent. More, the state would miss adding roughly 3,000 jobs in the advanced and renewable energy sectors, on top of the 3,000 jobs generated the past five years.
Critics often warn about the standards driving electricity prices higher. What deserves emphasis in response are the savings from using less electricity through greater efficiency. In addition, energy efficiency stands as the most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gases.
Then, there is the law itself with its requirement that energy efficiency programs must save consumers more money than they cost. That benefit goes even to those companies that already have taken steps to reduce their energy consumption.
One idea that state Sen. Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, has proposed involves eliminating preferences for in-state renewable energy sources. He points to concerns about violating principles of interstate commerce. That raises an intriguing legal argument, one aired briefly by the federal appeals court in Chicago. Worth keeping in mind is that these preferences have helped boost an alternative energy industry in Ohio, building on homegrown strengths in manufacturing. That development reinforces the care required in making changes to standards that have advanced the state.