Cleaner Air and Better Health: The Benefits of Ohio's Renewable and Efficiency Standards

In 2014, Ohio Senate Bill 310 suspended Ohio's EERS and RPS (collectively referred to as the "clean energy standards") for two years and created an Energy Mandates Study Committee (EMSC) to examine the costs and benefits of these policies. This report has been produced to inform the EMSC's evaluation of public health and environmental effects of using renewable energy and energy efficiency resources to displace electric generation from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas.

The public health effects associated with fossil fuel generation are of particular concern in Ohio. Prior to the establishment of the state's clean energy standards, Ohio relied almost exclusively on fossil fuels to generate electricity, with coal accounting for 85 percent of its electric power in 2008. Despite some progress made over the past six years in transitioning to cleaner energy sources, coal-fired power plants still provided 67 percent and natural gas plants 18 percent of Ohio's electricity in 2014. Ohio's power plants are among the largest emitters of carbon pollution of all state generation fleets in the nation.

Our analyses strongly suggest that reinstating Ohio's EERS and RPS by at least 2017 and implementing these policies in full through 2029 would help the state shift to clean energy sources, reduce emissions of harmful pollutants, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. As these findings demonstrate, Ohio's clean energy policies hold significant untapped potential to protect the environment and safeguard public health, particularly the health of children, pregnant women, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations, as well as those who work and play outdoors.

We find that, along with other planned changes to Ohio's electricity mix, restoring the EERS and RPS by 2017 would:

  • In 2017 (with the freeze lifted), reduce particulate matter pollution enough to prevent at least 16,900 lost work days, 2,230 asthma attacks, 120 asthma emergency department visits, 100 hospital admissions, 230 heart attacks, and at least 140 premature deaths;
  • Prevent at least 326,600 lost work days, 43,190 asthma attacks, 2,350 asthma emergency department visits, 2,010 hospital admissions, 4,340 heart attacks, and at least 2,730 premature deaths in total between 2017 and 2029; and
  • Reduce Ohio's annual carbon pollution by about 10 million tons between 2017 and 2029 -- equivalent to avoiding emissions from the electricity cconsumed over the course of a year at 1 million homes.

From the environmental and public health perspective, these policies are performing just as intended when they were first enacted in 2008. Delaying their reinstatement would only withhold these critical benefits from the people of Ohio.