After nine months of hearings, the Energy Mandates Study Committee--tasked with determining the fate of Ohio's energy efficiency and renewables standards after they were "frozen" last year--released its highly anticipated report last month recommending the freeze be extended indefinitely.
To call this a monumental disappointment would be an understatement.
Within minutes of the committee releasing its report, Governor Kasich weighed in, calling the recommendation for a continued freeze "unacceptable." His statement set off a chain reaction across the state of lawmakers, local businesses, and the media following his lead and amplifying his opposition to the report findings.
Predictably, the committee used the Clean Power Plan as their scapegoat and cherry picked data (some of questionable credibility) to fit their preferred conclusion. The final report is devoid of analysis and ignores the mountain of evidence demonstrating the years of cost-effective savings these clean energy standards have provided Ohio.
Here's a deeper dive into just a few of the many flawed conclusions and key omissions from the report, and why Ohio's decision makers should continue to reject them.
The Committee's justification for recommending an indefinite freeze focuses mainly on costs rather than the complete picture that should also include benefits, all while downplaying the savings Ohioans already experienced over the last five years of energy efficiency programs.
- The report cites only the initial costs of utility efficiency programs, failing to include the over $1.5 billion in savings Ohioans have already realized from cutting their energy use and a return on investment of 2:1 for homeowners and businesses--all reported by the utility companies themselves.
- AEP recently found that energy efficiency delivers power at a rate of less than 2 cents per kWh, making it the "lowest cost alternative," even cheaper than natural gas and coal-fired power.
- This is consistent with testimony heard by the Committee. Chuck Goldman, staff scientist for U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, testified that Ohio is leading the nation for the cheapest and most cost-effective programs
- The Ohio Consumers' Counsel gave similar testimony, stating that energy efficiency is essential to maintaining affordable utility services in Ohio and recommending that the standards be reinstated.
- The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE)--an independent nationwide expert with 40 years of experience in efficiency--submitted a study to the Committee summarizing reports from Ohio's four major electric utilities. They found that before the freeze on efficiency programs, the utilities reported they were on course to help customers cut their power use by at least 33% in the coming years. In other words, there are still years of unharnessed potential for families and businesses to save money on their bills through energy saving programs, just waiting to be captured.
Yet the Committee report mentioned none of this, instead bemoaning the lack of "definitive data" on the future costs of programs. Strange, given all of this evidence at their fingertips.
The report gave renewable energy a similar short end of the stick, citing only costs and ignoring the significant benefits of wind and solar for Ohioans.
- Several reputable entities testified to plummeting wind and solar costs, and made clear that it is quite inexpensive to meet the renewable energy requirements--which account for just a small fraction of the average consumer's electricity bill. In return, renewables provide far more benefits than their costs, balancing Ohio's energy portfolio with cleaner energy and keeping energy prices low.
- Despite the documented benefits of the renewable energy standards, the report instead focuses myopically on seriously flawed data from Utah State University, an institution that not only has deep ties with the fossil fuel industry but has also been called out for making misleading statements about wind energy.
- The report nowhere acknowledges another bill passed around the time of the freeze (HB 483), which tripled property setback requirements for wind developments, halting Ohio's previously thriving wind industry and making clear to clean energy investors the state is not open for their business.
Health and Environmental Impacts
The report doesn't even attempt to assess the environmental impacts of the clean energy standards. This is particularly unfortunate, given the impact it has on the people of Ohio.
- A new report submitted to the Committee and posted as testimony found that reinstating Ohio's clean energy standards would reduce harmful pollution emissions and bring direct, tangible benefits for all Ohioans--particularly in the low-income and minority populations disproportionately exposed to high levels of air pollution.
- These benefits include preventing 335,770 lost work days, 44,930 asthma attacks, 2,420 asthma-related emergency department visits, 2,060 hospital admissions, 4,470 heart attacks and 2,820 premature deaths. This type of information does not appear anywhere in the report (though the House Democrats cited it in their recommendations to thaw the freeze).
- Even worse, the report cites no data whatsoever on the health effects of a continued freeze, despite the fact that SB 310 required the Committee to conduct an analysis of the environmental impacts of the clean energy standards.
More Good, Local Jobs
Finally, the report does not examine the significant job-creating opportunities the clean energy standards have brought (and will bring) to the state.
- As of 2013, Ohio was home to over 400 advanced energy companies that employed over 25,000 Ohioans and was leading the country in the number of facilities manufacturing components for wind technology and second in the number of solar equipment providers.
- A report by the Pew Charitable trusts shows Ohio attracted $1.3 billion in private clean energy investment from 2009 to 2013. Similarly, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) reported that just prior to the passage of the SB 310 clean energy freeze, Ohio's clean tech economy had grown to support 89,000 jobs.
The Freeze Isn't Free
If the committee is so concerned about costs, they need to realize the freeze they've imposed on the state is costing Ohioans jobs, money and their health.
This clean energy freeze is not free. The longer we wait, the harder it will be for Ohio to climb its way back to the top and regain the position of leadership it once held as a clean energy innovator. We can get there again, if decision makers get serious about Ohio's energy future and continue to reject any further delays in committing to a clean energy path.