Bill That Threatens to Dismantle Ohio's Clean Energy Law Hits Roadblock in Senate

Ohio Senator Bill Seitz stands poised on the edge of a cliff, ready to toss Ohio’s energy future over the edge. 

Ignoring the calls of hundreds of organizations and businesses who have urged him to stop, and rejecting the opinions of four editorial boards and resolutions in Ohio’s largest cities and local counties that have asked him to reconsider, Senator Seitz remains focused on his goal of undoing Ohio’s clean energy law, under which Ohioans are saving energy, lowering their electricity bills and creating clean energy jobs across the state.  Now, this rapidly moving train appears to be hitting serious roadblocks - at the last minute Senator Seitz cancelled tomorrow's planned Public Utilities Committee vote.  Hopefully, this signals that he either doesn’t have the support of his committee members, or is starting to understand that he’s on the wrong side of history.

Ohioans have benefited greatly from the clean energy and energy efficiency standards that were passed into law five years ago, resulting in billions of dollars in energy savings for residents and businesses and making Ohio an attractive place to live and work.  In late September, however, Senator Seitz introduced SB 58 in the Senate Public Utilities Committee, in a thinly veiled attempt to dismantle these standards.  In the last two months NRDC and a network of environmental and consumer advocates, in addition to scores of businesses and manufacturers, citizens, faith-based groups and municipalities across Ohio have rallied to stop the bill.

While Senator Seitz has repeatedly claimed that his bill retains the efficiency and renewable standards enacted five years ago, nothing could be further from the truth.  Some of SB 58's most egregious provisions include the following:

  • Watering down the definition of energy efficiency to include non-electric measures – all funded by consumers who receive no direct benefit.  These would include power plant upgrades dating all the way back to 2006, “business-as-usual” transmission and distribution improvements, water and sewage upgrades, recycled glass, “as found” savings, any efficiency measure already complying with a federal standard, and the list goes on.
  • Allowing Ohio’s largest manufacturers to opt out from energy efficiency programs – with zero oversight and reducing benefits for all consumers.  
  • Capping the investments utilities can make in efficiency - the lowest-cost energy resource available - drastically reducing the benefits available to Ohioans.
  • Ensuring that any investment in energy efficiency would be a net gain for utilities - at the expense of consumers.  Currently, utilities can receive a rate of return (called “shared savings”) when they over-comply with Ohio’s energy efficiency standards, though still leaving the vast majority of the benefits for consumers.  The proposed bill, however, upends this dynamic balance.  It would guarantee utilities an unprecedented 1/3 of the savings from energy efficiency programs - leaving little for consumers.  What’s worse, this approach would reward utilities for mere compliance with what they are already required to do under the law.  It could no longer be called “shared savings,” but rather an overt hand out to utilities.

These are just a few of the most troubling provisions in a bill rife with exemptions and exceptions that threaten to swallow Ohio’s clean energy standards whole. 

Thankfully, the list of opponents to SB 58 is growing, including the Ohio Manufacturers Association, scores of large industrials (Lima Refinery, Dow Chemical, Whirlpool, Owens Corning), Advanced Energy Economy Ohio, WIRE-Net, AARP, Union of Concerned Scientists, Blue Green Alliance, Sheet Metal Workers International, just to name a few.  However, utility and large industry proponents of the bill continue to exert pressure on Ohio’s lawmakers. 

In the meantime, NRDC forges ahead in its fight to stop the bill dead in its tracks.