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Ohio GOP Pushes Bill to Kill Wind, Solar Mandates in Name of Competition

The bill would allow any customer who has signed a contract with an independent power company to avoid paying any extra charges for green power.

by John Funk, The Plain Dealer, Cleveland / March 8, 2017

(TNS) -- CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Republican majority in the Ohio House is moving again to get rid of the state's renewable energy rules.

In a bill sponsored by a Cincinnati Republican and released late Tuesday, the House would make voluntary the mandates that now require power companies to generate or buy and sell a percentage of power from wind, solar and other renewable technologies.

The 73-page bill, as sponsored by State Rep. Louis B. Blessing would:

Allow any customer who has signed a contract with an independent power company to avoid paying the delivery company any extra charges for green power.

This provision appears to be aimed at American Electric Power's plans to build 900 megawatts of wind and solar (about as much power as the Davis-Besse nuclear plant generates) and have customers pay for the construction.

Leave it up to each power company to decide what percentage of the power it sells has been generated by renewable technologies such as wind and solar.

The law currently demands that by 2026, 12.5 percent of the power sold must be from renewables. The standards under this proposed legislation would be completely voluntary and there would be no penalties for companies that chose not to sell green power. The bill eliminates all fines since the standards would become voluntary benchmarks. And in 2026, even the voluntary benchmarks would disappear from the law.

The legislation continues rules on "Renewable Energy Credits, or RECs, but appears to effectively kill the value of RECs in future years.

What are RECs? Starting in 2009, power companies could buy the RECs in a market rather than build their own wind and solar. The REC market was designed to be a source of money for independent companies building wind and solar.

The bill would also:

Allow large commercial or industrial customers to opt out of utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs.

This is an expansion of the current law, which allowed only industrial customers to opt out. But residential customers are not permitted to opt out of the programs, as the bill is now written.

In testimony before the General Assembly last fall on a similar bill, Ohio Consumers' Counsel Bruce Weston asked lawmakers to authorize his agency to opt residential consumers out of the programs if residential charges became too high.

Utilities now, say critics, have figured out ways to profit from the consumer energy efficiency programs.

Weaken energy efficiency standards, standards that once demanded the utilities to reduce peak demand in their systems by 22 percent by 2025, compared with 2009 demand, by helping customers use less power through adoption of more efficient appliances, heavy equipment and lighting.

Reduce the overall peak demand to 17 percent by 2027. In addition, electric utilities would be able to count upgrades in their own equipment -- new transformers or switches, for example, as upgrades in energy efficiency.

As originally written in 2008, the mandate was aimed at forcing utilities to help customers reduce consumption through new more efficient technologies, whether in the home or in the factory.

The bill is said to be "fast-tracked," meaning the House intends to conduct hearings soon and set a vote on the legislation. The House leadership believes it has a veto-proof majority, meaning it can override a veto by Gov. John Kasich.

Kasich vetoed similar legislation during the Christmas holidays and is expected to veto this bill.

©2017 The Plain Dealer, Cleveland Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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