Smart Policies Help Create Clean-Energy Jobs in Ohio

In Environmental Entrepreneurs’ latest clean-energy jobs report, released yesterday, there’s good news for Ohio’s workers and for the state’s unemployed. (E2 is an NRDC affiliate.) Since October of last year, clean-energy employers have announced new six projects that can create as many as 1485 jobs. Projects producing as many as 985 jobs were announced in the first three months of this year alone.

That’s important news for a state that’s lost almost 350,000 jobs in the Great Recession. Many of these announcements are for jobs in solar and wind power, and in fuel-efficient vehicles. What’s especially apparent from these announcements is how important smart public policies are in creating clean-energy job growth.

Unfortunately, many of the same smart policies are under attack in Washington. In Columbus, Gov. Kasich is attempting to dilute the state’s successful renewable energy standard. We need to defend these smart policies if we want to continue the job growth they have made possible—if we want, also, the other important benefits that clean energy brings, including energy self-sufficiency, entrée into the multi-trillion dollar international renewable energy market, and, especially, clean air for our kids to breathe.

Ohio’s renewable energy standard has helped drive growth in solar and wind projects. The standard requires that state utilities get 12.5 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. It was instrumental in the decision by Texas wind-power developer EDP Renewables to build a 55-turbine wind farm in economically challenged Paulding County. The project, which came online in October, employed more than 1000 construction workers in Ohio. Over its lifetime, EDP will contribute more than $175 million to the county, much of it in the form of payments in lieu of taxes, and, in rent paid to landowners on whose properties wind turbines are sited. “It’s quite a boon for the local economy,” county commissioner Tony Zartman has said. “It should help change our community’s situation.”

Without the state’s clean-energy standard, it’s likely these gains would not have been possible. And if Gov. Kasich and his allies dilute the standard, projects that developers have expressed interest in, including 3600 megawatts of wind power, may never materialize. The same can be said for the thousands of attendant jobs in construction, operations and maintenance. Already, one wind-farm developer previously active in the state told me, “we’re being forced to focus our energies elsewhere.” How many more will follow? 

Similarly, Congress’ failure to renew the soon-to-expire federal Production Tax Credit for wind power, and the now-expired Section 1603 federal cash grant program for solar is jeopardizing job-creating renewable energy projects in the state and around the nation. (Section 1603 offered upfront payments in lieu of long-term tax credits.)

But let’s get back to the good news. In Ohio, that isn’t all about wind and solar energy. In Anna, in the western part of the state, Honda will invest $98 million to make components that will boost vehicle performance and fuel efficiency. These investments can create as many as 150 full-time jobs, beginning in 2013. That growth has been spurred not only by skyrocketing gas prices but also by President Obama’s historic fuel-efficiency standards.

The E2 clean-jobs report offers good news for Ohio. It also offers insight into the ways that smart public policies create jobs, especially in our recovering economy. For this vital growth to continue, we need to protect policies and programs like Ohio’s renewable energy standard. We need to extend the national Production Tax Credit for wind power, and renew the Section 1603 grant program for solar. The overwhelming majority of Americans want a clean-energy future. These policies translate that desire into much-needed jobs for workers, in Ohio and around the nation.