Leaders in the Republican-dominated General Assembly appear to have the new bill that would freeze the state’s energy efficiency standards on the fast track. But as Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, some energy experts are wondering where the governor might fall on this issue.
For years Republican Gov. John Kasich has said Ohio should take an all-of-the-above approach when it comes to its energy policy.
In his 2012 State of the State address, he reiterated his support for alternative energy but with a certain amount of caution.
“Renewables – hey, you can be for coal, you can be for gas, you know what, you can be for wind, you can be for solar, you can be for geothermal," Kasich said at the time. "We need to be for our renewables. They’re starting to gain momentum. They’re starting to become more economically workable. But let’s, of course, not stuff something in that’s going to drive up costs for people, you know, that are unrealistic, but we need to embrace renewables in our state.”
Energy and industrial experts are weighing in on how this stance from the governor could impact a new energy bill in the Senate. The legislation would freeze efficiency and renewable standards created by law in 2008.
The benchmarks call on 25 percent of electricity sold in Ohio to come from renewable and alternative energy sources by 2025.
Ted Ford is president and CEO of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy which represents about 400 alternative energy companies. He opposes the freeze and says it’s really an all-out repeal of the law.
Ford recalls a another statement made by Kasich during an energy summit in 2011, a few months before that State of the State speech. According to Ford, the governor said the state must stay committed to clean alternative, renewable and advanced energy sources despite the fact that costs weren’t ideal at the time.
“So that was in 2011, and costs have come down since then, and we’ve got a robust industry here so we don’t know where the governor is on SB310," Ford said. "We’re hopeful that he continues to believe like he did in 2011 that all these things are necessary.”
But Sam Randazzo, with Industrial Energy Users Ohio, sees it differently. His group represents big and small companies such as McDonald’s and Marathon Refinery. He argues that the governor can stay true to his all-of-the-above position and sign the energy bill at the same time.
“I don’t see a necessary conflict between the types of comments you attributed to the governor and going along with a vision...that allows customers to make their own choice among competing suppliers of goods and services where those customers are looking for opportunities to reduce their electric bill and reduce their energy intensity," Randazzo said.
Randazzo supports the new bill and says a freeze must happen in order to avoid higher electric bills. While Ford believes the standards suppress electric costs. He adds that many alternative energy companies would be forced to shut down or move out of Ohio if the standards go away.
Kasich’s spokesperson, Rob Nichols, says the governor’s policy team continues to look at the plan to get "a better understanding of its impact on jobs and the economy.”
Senate President Keith Faber of Celina and House Speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina, both Republicans, have said they’d like to pass the legislation by May.