Overly Burdensome Solar and Wind Referendum Bills Receive First Hearings

This year, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s Energy & Environment Committee established a list of public policy priorities, one of which outlines the importance of “removing barriers to entry and pushing back against new barriers to entry for all energy sources.” Companion bills, Senate Bill 52 and House Bill 118, create new barriers to entry for solar and wind projects by subjecting them to a new layer of local government regulation in addition to the state process by including a township-by-township referenda.

The bills introduce tremendous, new political risks to energy infrastructure projects that will deter investors and lenders from providing the upfront capital needed to build projects.  Thus, the bill acts as an effective moratorium. As a result, under SB 52 and HB 118, at a time when private sector demand for solar and wind energy continues to grow, government intervention into the marketplace would choke supply, raise prices and hurt Ohio’s business climate

No other sources of generation are subject to a similar public referendum, and such a requirement would kill almost every solar and wind project moving forward in the state. This represents a dangerous precedent and reverses the regulatory certainty developers and investors rely on to make business decisions and investments in Ohio.

Proposals such as SB 52 and HB 118 do not create a friendlier business climate in Ohio. In fact, they do just the opposite. If passed, these bills could give solar and wind developers cold feet and prevent them from ever doing business in the state, depriving Ohio of economic development opportunities that could generate millions of dollars of tax revenue, create both construction and long-term jobs and contribute to diversifying our overall economy. If lawmakers believe local residents should have a stronger vote in the process, a more balanced approach is needed.

As SB 52 and HB 118 receive more hearings in their respective committees, the Ohio Chamber is committed to keeping an open dialogue with lawmakers on this legislation.