By Julie Carr Smyth
AP Statehouse Correspondent
COLUMBUS: Ohio’s targets for the use of alternative energy by big utilities will remain in place for now, under a legislative compromise brought on by objections from the state’s burgeoning wind industry, among others.
Senate Public Utilities Chairman Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, told The Associated Press on Monday he has made several changes to sweeping utility legislation that originally proposed scrapping Ohio’s alternative energy mandates at the end of this year.
Seitz said a compromise bill is expected Tuesday and he’s “reasonably optimistic” committee approval will come after Thanksgiving.
Seitz said the revised bill will keep Ohio’s renewables rules in place through December 2018, at which point thresholds for renewable energy purchased in-state would be lifted so “people can get it wherever it’s cheapest so long as it’s deliverable” to the power grid that covers Ohio.
Other revisions made to secure pivotal committee votes include eliminating Canadian hydropower as an eligible alternative, capping benefits returned to utilities from energy efficiency and allowing the use of hydropower produced at a location along the Ohio River, Seitz said. The bill’s new version also would now make energy from anaerobic digesters and methane gas converters acceptable in meeting alternative targets.
Seitz’s bill revisited a 2008 Ohio law under which utilities were required to produce 12.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and hydropower, by 2025. Another 12.5 percent must come from so-called “advanced energy,” such as clean coal or a state-of-the-art nuclear reactor, in what’s been called the “25 by ‘25” standard.
Seitz said he believes Ohio’s in-state renewables mandates risk being declared unconstitutional, as similar rules have been elsewhere in the U.S. The amended bill would default to allowing all sources of energy deliverable to the PJM grid if that were to happen, he said.
Opponents during months of hearings have argued such mandates fatten electric bills in a state whose rates are already higher than some neighbors. Some also question climate change and those who use it to push for reduced use of coal-fired power plants.
Supporters of the thresholds, in place in dozens of states, say they help the environment by beginning to replace use of coal-fired technology while spurring economic investments and new high-paying jobs in science and technology.