Upadated July 25, 2019
Of the many terrible aspects of the recently passed substitute House Bill 6, the worst may have been the elimination of Ohio’s energy efficiency programs. The state’s energy efficiency programs have been overwhelmingly successful. Ohio doesn’t approve efficiency programs unless they save more money than they cost, and these programs have delivered for Ohio’s electricity customers. The benefits to national security, our military and our veterans, however, are often overlooked.
Energy Efficiency Supports our Military Veterans
I served a tour of duty in Iraq with Ohio’s Army National Guard as a combat engineer operating a .50 caliber machine gun on an improvised explosive device (IED) search team. We cleared routes so that we could safely move convoys throughout theater. Today, I’m one of more than 11,000 veterans working in Ohio’s clean energy economy. I’m proud to say that this growing industry is hiring veterans at a pace that exceeds that of the national economy, with 11 percent of energy efficiency jobs being held by military veterans. (The national average of veterans in the workforce is currently at 6 percent.) Eliminating energy efficiency standards and programs will put these jobs at risk.
Energy Efficiency Supports our Military
But the debate around energy efficiency standards goes well beyond just the men and women who are doing this work. For years, military leaders have stressed the importance of energy efficiency and advanced energy technologies like renewables to improving energy security and resilience.
The Assistant Secretary of the Army testified before Congress that "reducing consumption and increasing energy efficiency are among the most cost-effective ways to improve [military] installation energy security." The Air Force’s “Energy Flight Plan” issued last year said that "reducing the Air Force’s need for energy is the single best action it can take to improve its energy resiliency."
The Navy has said that "investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency measures… help insulate our critical infrastructure from the fragility of the commercial power grid." And Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert McMahon has stressed that DoD "should continue to invest in energy efficient technologies to improve energy resilience and provide for mission assurance." In fact, earlier this year, Secretary McMahon testified to the US House Armed Services Committee that “the Defense Department’s ongoing energy efficiency efforts not only contribute to energy resilience by reducing critical loads, but have also lowered base operating costs by $5.4 billion...”
Secretary McMahon’s statements could just as easily have been said about other critical infrastructure like hospitals, police departments, fire departments and other first responders, waste water treatment plants and critical transportation nodes. Cutting support for energy efficiency and advanced energy in Ohio would undermine our ability to make the investments we need to protect critical facilities and services and make sure they remain available should the grid go down.
Energy Efficiency Is a Critical Tool for Ohio Military Installations
Eliminating these programs will also hurt Ohio’s ability to compete. In August 2017, then-Speaker Cliff Rosenberger commissioned the Ohio Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and Military Affairs Task Force to study the state’s military installations and other federal facilities like NASA Glenn. The goal of the Task Force was to make recommendations on how to preserve those facilities and best position Ohio to acquire new economic development opportunities.
One of the key Task Force recommendations was to engage with the private sector and pursue opportunities for advanced energy solutions at military installations. The Task Force’s report stated specifically that emphasis was needed to reduce operational costs at DLA Columbus through conservation and alternative energy.
Governor DeWine recently appointed retired Air Force Colonel Joseph Zeis to a cabinet-level military liaison position aimed at protecting and positioning Ohio’s military installations and assets. With his focus on keeping Ohio competitive, I expect that Colonel Zeis will be looking for ways to implement the Task’s Force’s recommendations and efficiency programs could be a key element of that effort.
States Are Investing in Energy Efficient Economies
Other states have made, and continue to make, strategic investments in energy efficiency and alternative energy at military installations and other critical infrastructure. The BRAC Task Force report included examples of those efforts and last year, the Association for Defense Communities issued its own report highlighting what other states are doing to strengthen energy resilience and enhance the military value of their bases.
It’s not about just preserving what we have either, it’s also leveraging our capabilities to stimulate new industry. We can and should be doing more. Ohio is home to some unique assets that could put the state at the forefront of fast-growing advanced energy industries. For example, NASA Glenn is doing groundbreaking research on advanced energy technologies.
NASA’s expertise in solar, battery storage and fuel cells could help Ohio stake a claim as a national leader in advanced energy. The fact is that growth in advanced energy markets is exploding, another reason why cutting energy efficiency and renewable energy programs is such a big mistake.
We Must Preserve Energy Efficiency Policies
I recently read that if wind turbines and solar panels are the celebrities of the clean energy revolution, then energy efficiency is its workhorse. Americans used less electricity in 2017 than they did a decade earlier. And the benefits aren’t limited to those who participate in the programs as reduced energy consumption impacts energy markets in ways that benefit all of Ohio’s electricity customers.
The bottom line is that the cuts to energy efficiency resulting from the passage of House Bill 6 are wrong for critical infrastructure energy security and resilience, wrong for Ohio’s growth and competitiveness, and wrong for Ohio’s electricity consumers who will be stuck with higher electric bills. If we don’t recover the state’s energy efficiency standards, we will all regret it.