New Bill Recommends Further Extension of Energy Mandates Freeze

The much anticipated bill that would implement the recommendations contained in the September 2015 report of the legislative Energy Mandates Study Committee was introduced last week. Senate Bill 320, sponsored by Sen. Bill Seitz, will restart the debate over what to do about energy efficiency and renewable energy mandates that Ohio first put into place in 2008.

The most controversial provision of SB 320 would delay the further escalation of Ohio’s existing energy mandates until 2020. Previous legislation put a two-year freeze on those mandates. Absent more legislative action, the mandates are set to resume their rise in 2017.

As a result, the Ohio Chamber’s Energy & Environment Committee recommended that the General Assembly postpone any further escalation of these mandates. Doing so will allow time for legal and other questions surrounding the new federal Clean Power Plan (CPP) rule to be resolved. The CPP rule seeks to cut carbon pollution, but would be particularly devastating and costly to states like Ohio that use a significant amount of coal-generated power. For this reason SB 320 calls for the additional three year delay.

SB 320 also includes other policy changes that have previously been supported by the Ohio Chamber. For example, the bill would:

•Expand the definition of “renewable energy resource” to include combined heat and power and bio-gas fueled generation from landfills;

•Ensure that all efforts or behaviors that result in net energy savings count toward fulfillment of Ohio’s energy efficiency mandates;

•Give more Ohio businesses the option to voluntarily opt-out of participating in – and thus paying a monthly electricity bill rider for – the utilities’ energy efficiency programs.

With the legislature likely to break after Memorial Day, it is unlikely this comprehensive and complicated piece of legislation will be passed quickly. However, SB 320 is expected to be given immediate consideration by the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.