Today, Ohio has the most competitive industrial electricity prices in the Midwest: 25% lower than prices in Indiana and a full 40% lower than those in Michigan. That’s not an accident — in fact, these low prices are in large part due to the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, which have grown the state’s diverse energy infrastructure and provided Ohioans with clean, affordable nuclear energy.
But without its nuclear plants, the people of Ohio will be more vulnerable to increases in electricity prices and air pollution that always occur whenever a nuclear plant closes, from California and Vermont to Germany or Japan. House Bill 6, which would provide critical and necessary support to the Davis-Besse and Perry plants, provides Ohio lawmakers with an opportunity to lead on clean energy production for the sake of the environment, our local economies and the health of all Ohioans.
Few things have more shaped markets than the massive subsidies given to renewables over the past 20 years. Here in Ohio, the state subsidizes energy companies with extremely low taxes on oil and gas production. If producers were taxed at median tax rates — like those imposed in Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota — the state of Ohio estimated $448 million would be raised over two years.
A 2017 analysis by the federal Congressional Budget Office finds that renewables received $10.7 billion more or 55 times what was given to nuclear in 2016. On a unit of energy basis, renewables received over 100 times what was given to nuclear. And the CBO data show no subsidies for nuclear between 1985 and 2000, and comparatively small subsidies between 2000 and 2005.
However, selectively handing out these subsidies and tax credits to non-nuclear forms of energy does very little to help the consumer with the cost of their monthly electricity bill. The bottom line is that a smaller supply of energy creates less competition and higher prices. Instead, the state should make it a priority to help its nuclear plants, which will in turn prevent Ohioans from having to pay more than their fair share for their electricity.
The Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants provide exactly what existing electricity generation methods do not — environmental benefits, affordability and grid resilience. Additionally, these plants directly and indirectly provide more than 4,300 jobs, contribute $510 million toward the state’s GDP, and pay $45 million to vendors and suppliers right here in Ohio.
These figures alone can make the case for the importance of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants. But heavy reliance on a single energy source comes with its own costs as well. If lawmakers fail to protect these plants, and the thousands of good-paying jobs and affordable electricity that come with them, the state will be forced to import energy from Michigan or Indiana. This will drive up the typical Ohioan’s energy bill by about $35 annually beginning in 2022 — and that number will only increase.
That’s why I am encouraging Ohio lawmakers and Gov. Mike DeWine to embrace a common-sense framework that recognizes the benefits of nuclear energy plants. Ohio cannot afford to sit by while outside interests are manipulating energy markets in such a way that could kill 90% of the carbon-free power in the state, while taxpayers get stuck with the bill.
By protecting the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, Ohio will keep electricity affordable while protecting its ability to create clean energy into the future, preserving the jobs and economic benefits that go away without them.
Shellenberger is the president of Environmental Progress, an independent nonprofit research organization.