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As Ohio Energy Standards Freeze Moves To The House, Both Sides Argue Economics

A bill that would put a hold on Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable standards is making its way through the state legislature after late-night passage in the state senate last Thursday. While opponents of the 2008 standards say they are costly for consumers, some are arguing the current standards are good for business and save money in the long run.

The renewable standards require utilities to get an increasing percentage of their power from wind and solar sources through 2025 to help curb pollution from fossil fuels. The law also sets benchmarks for efficiency, which means utilities have an incentive to help businesses and individuals upgrade to energy-efficient appliances, better insulation and other measures that lead to less electricity use overall.

State Senator Bill Seitz of Cincinnati has led the push to repeal the law, proposing several different versions of a bill over the last couple years. Speaking on the state senate floor last week, he tore into the rules.

“They like to talk about standards—standards, sounds so nice, it’s a standard. It’s not a standard. It’s a mandate. Whether you want to pay or not, you pay.” He argues the costs of shifting to wind and solar hit consumers as well as utility companies.

Opponents are saying Seitz’s bill will harm businesses and consumers. Jakiethia Butsch, the Ohio rep for Small Business Majority, says the standards—or mandates—have helped incentivize businesses to reduce their own energy costs.

“Like when you go to the doctor and you don’t know why you’re sick, you’re just sick...you need the government sometimes to assist you on how to do this, on ways that you can do it,” she says.

A 2013 study commissioned by the Ohio Manufacturers Association finds the cost savings due to the current law will exceed $5 billion by 2020. Researchers at Ohio State University have found consumers have already saved 1.4 percent on electric bills due to the rules.

The latest version of a repeal, SB 310, would put the energy efficiency and renewable standards on hold for two years while a committee studies the costs.  

A national effort to repeal state energy standards has been led by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, whose members include oil, gas and coal companies. Sen. Seitz sits on the board of ALEC. If it is successful, SB 310 will be the first bill in the country to repeal state energy standards.

Ohio Public Radio statehouse correspondent Andy Chow contributed reporting. Lewis Wallace is WYSO's economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.


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