Last week the heads of the Energy Mandates Study Committee--tasked with determining the fate of Ohio's energy efficiency and renewables standards after they were "frozen" last year by SB 310--unveiled a report that many of us have been waiting for months to dig into. But unlike a birthday or the night before Christmas, where you may dream about the present you'll soon be unwrapping, many of us had the sinking feeling the Committee would deliver us a "present" no better than a lump of coal.
Unfortunately, our collective gut was right.
What was supposed to be a set of recommendations based on a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of Ohio's clean energy standards turned out to be nothing more than political theater. The Committee--heavily stacked with proponents of SB 310--inexplicably recommended that Ohio freeze its wildly successful clean energy policies indefinitely.
You know, just because.
Unfortunately, the process appears to have succumbed to anti-regulation dogma and special interest pressure, the Committee opting to toss around the economic future of the state and the health and wellbeing of Ohioans like political footballs.
But the good news is that we don't have to wallow in our sorrows alone. Virtually immediately after the Committee made the report public, Ohio Governor John Kasich weighed in and put the smack-down on the findings.
Faster than the speed of light (well about as fast as an email can fly across the web), Governor Kasich put on his "adult cape" and denounced the Committee's recommendation calling a continued freeze "unacceptable." This isn't the first time he's had to swoop in and be the adult in the room (e.g. intervening last year to make the original SB 310 less bad by making the freeze temporary rather than permanent) and hopefully it won't be the last.
Governor Kasich's announcement set off a domino effect of other decision-makers and influencers joining his charge and letting everyone know what a terrible idea an indefinite freeze on energy standards would be for Ohio. Ohio EPA Director Butler echoed Kasich's comments, calling any continuation of the freeze "misguided" and identifying energy efficiency and renewable energy as "key to a low-cost strategy" to reduce carbon emissions and ultimately meeting U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan--our nation's first-ever limits on carbon pollution from power plants.
Senate and House Democrats followed suit (even those sitting on the Committee) making clear that "continuing these policies will allow us to generate savings for electric ratepayers, establish and protect thousands of jobs within our energy sector, and address growing environmental and public health concerns." One Republican Committee member declined to align himself with the report's perplexing recommendations, saying it would harm economic development in his district.
The media also immediately denounced the Committee's recommendation, nearly unanimously declaring it a terrible idea and a harmful direction for the state:
- Columbus Business First - Kasich: Ohio's renewable energy freeze is 'unacceptable'
- Gongwer - Energy Report Met With Criticism, Some Applause As Environmental, Business And Energy Groups React
- Midwest Energy News - Ohio lawmakers' report ignores benefits of clean energy standards
- Plain Dealer - If the Ohio General Assembly doesn't lift the freeze on renewable energy benchmarks, then Gov. John Kasich should push for reinstating the benchmarks: editorial
- Toledo Blade - Restore the energy mandates: The legislature and governor should be promoting, not discouraging, cleaner and more-efficient energy in Ohio
- The Columbus Dispatch - Kasich calls indefinite freeze of Ohio clean-energy standards 'unacceptable'
Large, job-creating companies like Whirlpool, Johnson Controls, Schneider Electric, United Technologies, and Ingersoll-Rand similarly oppose any further delay in reinstating the standards. Employing over 15,000 workers in Ohio who provide energy efficiency services to homes and businesses, these companies "strongly support" restoring Ohio's energy efficiency standard in 2016. Similarly, clean energy investment companies--with over $15 billion in assets under management and investors that hold shares in many Ohio companies and have clients throughout the state--make clear that the clean energy freeze "has created policy uncertainty for companies that are looking to plan and invest for the future, making Ohio a less desirable destination to do business." They urge Ohio to strongly support reinstating and strengthening clean energy policies.
The public is also following suit. More than 10,000 Ohioans signed a petition this year asking lawmakers to support clean energy policies in the state and bring Ohio back to the forefront of the clean energy economy in the Midwest.
It would appear the Committee is outnumbered and standing alone on this one. And for good reason: when one looks objectively at the wealth of information and data on Ohio's clean energy standards, the only honest conclusion would be that they should be brought back, the sooner the better.