Latest bill to address energy mandates gets first look

The House Public Utilities committee completed its first hearing on House Bill 114, the Energy Mandate bill, this week. The bill, with over 50 cosponsors, is the latest attempt to address Ohio’s renewable and energy efficiency. Until January 1st of this year, Ohio’s mandates had been frozen in place with the expectation that legislation addressing their burden on Ohio’s businesses would become law before the mandates resumed. Governor Kasich’s veto of reform legislation, however, caused the freeze to expire and snap back into place without any changes to bring down costs.

The bill in front of the committee contains many of the same provisions the Ohio Chamber supported in the past, including the ability of mercantile customers to opt-out of the energy efficiency mandates. Many large users of energy, chiefly through responding to competitive pressure, already invested heavily in technology and practices to become more efficient. Continuing to impose costs on businesses who have previously financed efficiency upgrades threatens Ohio’s economic competitiveness.

HB 114 also seeks to broaden what counts for compliance with the energy efficiency mandates by mandating that any action that reduces energy intensity of a facility, building, plant, pipeline, or equipment, or any action that reduces energy intensity of water supply or treatment, must count towards the law’s efficiency mandates. This expansion, coupled with several others in the bill, reduces the costs of the program by ensuring that reductions in energy consumption or intensity are fairly counted by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Finally, the bill would reduce the total savings required for Ohio’s utilities from 22.2 percent to 17.2 percent, thereby reducing the cost of the overall program.

On the renewable energy side of the mandates equation, HB 114 would permit, rather than require, Ohio’s utilities and electric suppliers to provide certain portions of their overall electric load from renewable energy resources. The bill also strengthens an existing requirement in Ohio law by prohibiting utilities or electric suppliers from providing a portion of their customers’ usage with renewable energy resources if doing so would increase costs by three percent or more over baseline costs. Additionally, all customers would be given the ability to opt out of paying any cost designed to recover the cost of providing energy from renewable energy resources.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Louis Blessing, expects quick action on this bill with a possible final vote in the House occurring by the end of the month.

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