In a bid to undo Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements for electric utilities, the state's House of Representatives on March 30 overwhelmingly passed a measure to make the renewable energy mandate a goal, while weakening and ultimately ending efficiency targets. House Bill 114, introduced earlier this month by Rep. Louis Blessing, advanced to the Senate on a 65-31 vote, largely along party lines in the Republican-dominated chamber.
The bill allows, rather than requires, renewable energy purchases and directs Ohio energy regulators to adopt rules enabling all utility customers to opt out of any costs utilities incur to procure renewables. That would undercut utilities' current requirement to source 12.5% of their retail electric supplies with renewable energy by 2027, with 0.5% of that from solar. Blessing's bill also would lower the state's energy efficiency benchmark to 17.2% electric savings by 2027, from 22.2% currently, and would end the efficiency requirement in 2027.
"The philosophy behind the bill is simple: In a world where it is extremely easy to go green, mandates are simply not necessary," Blessing told colleagues on the House floor ahead of the vote. The measure is almost identical to HB 544, a bill the state's general assembly approved last year that Gov. John Kasich vetoed in December 2016. In the wake of the veto, Ohio reinstated its renewable energy and efficiency mandates, created in 2008, after a two-year moratorium.
Rep. Mike Ashford, a Democrat from Toledo, said the latest legislative proposal was a "job killer" and predicted the Republican governor would veto it again. "You know, we can go on all day long and we can counterpoint each other about what's important, the pros and cons of this bill, but we've been doing this for almost nine years and we can do it again, because we know that, if passed, your governor is going to veto it," Ashford said in opposition of the bill. He called for a compromise bill instead.
American Electric Power Co. Inc. continues to review the legislation, according to a spokeswoman. "But we think there needs to be a broader policy discussion about Ohio's energy future," she said, adding, "We've made significant investments to comply with the renewable and energy efficiency standards that are in place and have run very successful programs for our customers. We want to make sure those investments are honored and also bring clarity to future energy investments in the state."