Do Ohio's Clean Energy Rules Hurt the State’s Economy?

A study conducted by Utah State University suggests that states with renewable electricity standards have not fared as well as states without them — a trend some say will continue.

by Jim Provance, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio / July 22, 2015

(TNS) -- Ohio’s mandate that utilities find more of their power from renewable sources is hampering the state’s economic comeback, a study presented Monday to a state panel considering the future of those standards suggested.

The study, conducted by Utah State University, suggested that states such as Ohio with renewable electricity standards have not fared as well as states without them. It said this trend will continue, leading to a difference of about 29,000 jobs by 2026, mostly in industrial and manufacturing sectors, which are the biggest users of electricity.

“What we see is that the growth that states could be having, the improving economic conditions particularly since the recession, is somewhat less from what they might have been absent a mandate ... to purchase electricity from particular places,” said Ryan Yonk, university research fellow.

A special joint state House and state Senate Energy Mandates Study Committee held its last hearing Monday. The committee now will prepare its final report to fellow lawmakers regarding where it thinks Ohio should go in terms of the renewable requirements as well as mandates requiring more efficient use of energy. The report is due to lawmakers by Sept. 30.

Ohio is in the middle of a two-year timeout in its march toward renewable energy. State law previously required that utilities such as Toledo Edison parent FirstEnergy find at least 25 percent of their power from renewable and advanced technology sources by the year 2025.

Lawmakers last year froze in place the annual benchmarks utilities must meet on that timeline. Should lawmakers lift the freeze, the benchmarks would resume in 2017, although the ultimate 25 percent goal would be delayed until 2027.

“I’d like to see the standards go down somewhat,” said Sen. Troy Balderson, R., Zanesville, committee co-chairman.

Rep. Kristina Roegner, R., Hudson, co-chairman, said it’s too soon to say what the final report will say.

“I do agree with a lot of what we heard today from the Buckeye Institute and also from Utah,” she said. “The studies they’ve done show a lot of these mandates do have some very real costs on our economy, from prices of electricity to employment figures.”

Mr. Yonk stressed that his study broadly compared states with and without renewable standards and did not take a specific look at Ohio’s program and whether some sectors of the economy have seen growth because of the standards.

Advocates of allowing the standard benchmarks to resume unabated have argued that green power has created jobs and opened markets for makers of such things as solar panels and wind turbines in the state.

They also argue that the causes for higher electricity rates in the state are far broader than the impact of the renewable and energy efficiency standards. The committee did not hear Monday about another study from those supporting the standards that makes that argument.

“They’re a very small part of the increase in energy [costs],” said Al Rosenfeld, energy specialist for the League of Women Voters of Ohio. “The man from Utah spent half an hour complaining about renewable portfolio standards, which is costing people in Columbus 34 cents a month.”

©2015 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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