Bill would scale back renewable energy targets, subsidize nuclear and coal

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to pass the bill tomorrow, July 18, followed by the full Senate, and then the Governor will sign it. Call your Ohio Senator (http://www.ohiosenate.gov/senators) and express your views on the bill.

Analysis: This bill stunts future renewable energy development in Ohio by depriving it of renewable energy credits, and instead subsidizes two nuclear plants and two coal-fired plants. Though the Ohio House-passed HB 6 would have eliminated Ohio’s renewable energy targets and energy conservation requirements for utilities, it changed in Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, probably reflecting the huge volume of testimony in opposition. Based on my understanding, the amended bill is still a terrible deal financially for Ohio consumers and a big setback on clean energy. The revised HB 6 restores the state’s renewable energy portfolio standards but sets a significantly lower target (dropping from 12.5 % of generating capacity to 8.5% and reduces the baseline significantly for calculating it. It sets up a fund paid into by all Ohio ratepayers, but only $20 million would go into renewable energy credits, and only six solar farms are eligible to apply. No future wind or solar utilities are eligible, throwing a huge wrench into investment in green energy.

The current version of the bill would also reduce compliance targets for utilities’ energy efficiency services to consumers, which are saving households millions by equipping them to reduce their consumption. Beneficiaries include many low-income households receiving weatherization and appliance upgrade help through programs like People Working Cooperatively. Lower statewide consumption reduces the height of peak demand spikes and saves consumers money also by enabling us to buy at lower prices. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission projects that the bill, in its current form, would put utilities in compliance by the end of 2020 and effectively end this program, which has enabled many Episcopal churches and institutions to receive rebates for energy conservation steps. Churches and households would lose this option after 2020 if the OLSC projections are correct.

Finally, the bill would require ratepayers to pay into a fund providing up to $150 million a year to subsidize First Energy’s two nuclear plants. It would also extend riders to bail out two Ohio River coal plants owned by a consortium of utilities.

The nuclear plants are profitable and the bailout is unnecessary, according to  testimony to the Senate Committee by “Paul Sotkiewicz, a former chief economist for PJM Interconnection, which runs the electricity grid in the region,” wrote Dan Shingler of “Crain’s Cleveland Business” on July 15.

“Sotkiewicz, who now is a consultant based in Florida, also is a former economist at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,” Shingler continues.  “On June 15, he told legislators that the FES deadline for refueling the plants doesn’t exist, and that the company already said in regulatory filings that it has paid for its refueling contracts. What’s more, he contended that the Davis-Besse and Perry plants are profitable and stand to remain so for the foreseeable future. He also said the subsidies don’t make sense from a standpoint of providing Ohio and its industries with the cheapest power.

‘It just doesn’t make any sense from an economic development standpoint. This is just crony capitalism, pure and simple,’ Sotkiewicz said.”

submitted by Ariel Miller, Ascension and Holy Trinity, Wyoming