The House Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy Generation adopted their substitute version of House Bill 6 (Sub. HB 6), a major piece of energy legislation. The Ohio Chamber provided testimony on the original bill last week after our energy and environment committee recommended several changes to HB 6 to ensure the calculus the bill delivers lower electric rates is correct.
Sub. HB 6 makes several changes to the original proposal but keeps the shift away from the state’s existing energy mandates. The renewable portfolio standard would be discontinued and replaced with monthly, capped charges to fund the Ohio Clean Air Program, with program money going to clean air and reduced emissions resources. In the place of the existing energy efficiency mandates would be replacement programs the utilities could file with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to encourage energy efficiency. An expanded class of businesses would be eligible to opt-out completely from both the existing and new energy efficiency programs, a policy change the Ohio Chamber has consistently advocated for.
The Ohio Chamber expressed concern in testimony that authorizing the utilities to recover legacy costs of the renewable portfolio standards, which the bill would otherwise convert to opt-in programs, from all customers would lessen the likelihood HB 6’s potential to lower electric rates. The substitute bill attempts to address this concern by instead allowing these existing costs to receive payments from the Ohio Clean Air Program and keeping the program’s monthly bill caps in place.
Our testimony also highlighted a few areas that still need addressed to fully deliver relief from the energy efficiency mandates. The Ohio Clean Air Program monthly charges are still currently crafted to apply to each account and may result in multiple charges for a single business location. The Ohio Chamber also recommended a handful of other amendments to HB 6, including a sunset date for the entire program. Instead, the bill now requires the Ohio Clean Air Authority to open an inquiry in 2029 and report findings to the General Assembly on whether the Ohio Clean Air Program continues to be in the public interest.
Finally, the new programs the utilities may file to encourage energy efficiency have no goals, metrics, or end date, potentially allowing another expensive, burdensome energy efficiency program to arise in place of the program the Ohio Chamber has sought to reform for years. Additional work is needed to prevent this.
However, the substitute bill’s potential to allow businesses to invest their own dollars in energy efficiency, rather than through utility-run programs, remains. Fast action continues to be expected for this legislation, with additional hearings before the full House committee likely to be held next week.