Conversation Restarted on Ohio’s Energy Policy

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unleashed their long-awaited approach to reforming Ohio’s expensive energy efficiency mandates and overly restrictive wind setback requirements. With the committee’s adoption of Substitute House Bill 114 as its working document, the Senate panel has restarted the conversation about Ohio’s energy policy 14 months after the House passed its bill. While explaining the changes between the House-passed version and the substitute bill, Chair Troy Balderson warned interested parties that the legislation is not expected to advance within the next few weeks.

On the energy efficiency front the committee retained the ability of mercantile customers to opt-out of energy efficiency programs administered by the electric utilities, foregoing both the costs and benefits of the program. This frees businesses to allow economic considerations, rather than government mandates, to drive their energy efficiency spending. The Senate version does, however, add additional reporting requirements that companies would include in filings to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

The Ohio Chamber advocated for an additional change to reduce the costs of the energy efficiency requirements: counting reform meant to ensure all energy reduction projects count toward compliance with the mandates. Although the substitute bill removed this it does retain a reduction in the energy efficiency mandates from roughly 22 percent by 2027 to 17 percent.

Another provision included the substitute bill is a proposed fix to Ohio’s overly restrictive wind turbine setback law. Changes made in 2014 made Ohio’s setback one of the most restrictive in the country and have led to uncertainty for businesses looking to invest in Ohio. The Senate’s approach will adequately protect the interests of property owners, enable wind developers to invest in our state, and bolster manufacturing opportunities up and down the wind energy supply chain.

The bill also included several other changes such as reducing the amount of electricity utilities must provide from renewable resources, allowing utilities to bank energy efficiency savings across program years and increases the permissible size of private wind projects that fall outside the authority of the Ohio Power Siting Board.

While the Ohio Chamber welcomes the restart to this conversation, Ohio’s energy efficiency mandates and wind setback have demanded attention for years. We urge the Senate to resist the temptation to delay continuing this conversation until the fall and act now to improve Ohio’s economic competitiveness.