Toward the end of last year, FirstEnergy floated the idea of state lawmakers using the lame duck session to freeze the state’s energy efficiency standards. The effort fizzled, thankfully, the hustle of such a session hardly the forum for taking a full and careful look at something as important to the state and its residents.
With the new year came state Sen. Bill Seitz, the chairman of the Senate Public Utilities Committee, conducting a helpful series of hearings on the subject. On Friday, he announced that he would produce new legislation sometime by the fall with the intention of “modifying” rather than “repealing” the energy efficiency standards.
Seitz has talked about “grappling with” such realities as few people participating directly in efficiency initiatives yet everyone paying for them through their electricity bills. He has raised concerns about companies having already made improvements in efficiency now required to support the efforts of those who have not done so.
There is room for updating and adjusting the efficiency standards, the state with a goal of reducing electricity consumption 22 percent by 2025. Creative ways exist for addressing the concerns of companies that have acted on their own. One has been outlined in a new report released by the Ohio Manufacturers Association and the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.
In the main, the report makes a strong case for why the efficiency standards benefit the state. For starters, they help to reduce customer demand, affecting supply and putting downward pressure on prices. The report calculates that Ohio customers could realize net savings of $2.7 billion by the end of the decade. More, energy efficiency is the lowest-cost way to meet increasing demand, its deployment cheaper than adding capacity.
If few people participate in efficiency programs, know that the impact on prices benefits all. The money hospitals have reported saving from efficiency measures ripples through health care and local economies. True, too, is that energy efficiency points to the long term, participation likely growing, along with the savings.
Then, there is the job creation, as the report notes, manufacturers meeting the demand for improved heating and cooling, construction firms in the mix, the markers spurring innovation. All of this highlights why Bill Seitz and his colleagues should do the smart thing and preserve the thrust and shape of the energy efficiency standards.