The Ohio Chamber of Commerce provided testimony this week on House Bill 6 (HB 6), a major energy bill that appears to be fast-tracked by House leadership. Our members continue to express serious concerns about the monthly charges Ohio businesses pay to fund energy efficiency programs and so the Ohio Chamber has consistently asked successive General Assemblies to act to reform them. HB 6, with its creation of an Ohio Clean Air Program, looks very different than the changes the Ohio Chamber has advocated for. However, if crafted carefully, the bill has the potential to deliver relief to Ohio businesses from the mandates.
HB 6 would shift Ohio away from the state’s existing renewable portfolio standard and energy efficiency mandates by effectively replacing them with monthly charges on electric bills to fund clean and reduced emissions resources. The Ohio Chamber recognizes and supports a key component of this bill that is lacking in other states that have enacted similar proposals: caps on the costs that customers pay. These caps are written into the law and bring stability and predictability to businesses who must be sensitive to not only energy prices in Ohio but globally. The key feature of the cap, that the customer charges cannot increase except to reflect inflation, are critical to HB 6’s potential to lower electric bills in the state.
The Ohio Chamber’s Energy and Environment Committee recommended several changes to HB 6 to ensure the calculus the bill delivers lower electric rates is correct.
Ohio Clean Air Program monthly charges are currently crafted to apply to each account. This construct deserves a second look as businesses routinely have multiple accounts at a single location. A commercial customer that is contemplated to receive a $20 monthly charge on their bill could see that figure multiplied several times, potentially increasing the cost burden and upending the calculus that this bill delivers lower rates. This caution also applies to the historical costs of the energy efficiency and renewable portfolio standards the utilities are authorized to recover under the bill.
The Ohio Chamber also recommended a handful of other amendments to HB 6, including a sunset date for the entire program.
HB 6’s potential to allow businesses to invest their own dollars in energy efficiency, rather than through utility-run programs, is consistent with the Ohio Chamber’s commitment to free enterprise. Fast action continues to be expected for this legislation, with the potential unveiling of amendments expected next week.