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Back to the carbon age: Ohio falls in ranking of state energy efficiency policies

David Beach  |  10/29/14 @ 1:00pm  |  Posted in Clean energy

After a few years of progress, a new national ranking of state energy efficiency policies confirms that Ohio is now falling fast behind competing states.

Centralized power<br />Ohio has frozen progressive energy policies that were starting to move the state toward cleaner, more decentralized power sources, such as efficiency and renewables.

In 2008, the Ohio General Assembly voted almost unanimously to require investor-owned utilities to support the expansion of energy efficiency and renewable energy. As a result, Ohio was moving to the forefront of a clean energy economy. In 2013, the state was named “most improved” by the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, a policy ranking by the influential American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

This year, however, everything changed. The General Assembly passed SB 310, which placed a freeze on the clean energy requirements and called for a panel to study whether the freeze should be permanent. This panel is being stacked with opponents of clean energy. (For more on the appointments to the study panel and the politics of SB 310, go here.)

ACEEE’s latest State Energy Efficiency Scorecard reflects these changes. The scorecard benchmarks states across six policy areas –- utility policies and programs, transportation initiatives, building energy codes, combined heat and power development, state government-led initiatives, and state-level appliance standards. This year Ohio dropped seven spots to a tie for 25th place in the ranking, making it one of the states to fall the furthest in 2014.

According to the scorecard, “After a notable upswing in energy savings owing to the state’s energy efficiency resource standard, efficiency in Ohio has stalled. Legislators voted in 2014 to effectively eliminate these long-term savings requirements, leaving the future of efficiency within the state uncertain. Ohio fell notably in the rankings this year, and could continue to fall if utilities fail to include energy efficiency within their portfolios in coming years.”

In addition to moving backward on energy policies, Ohio also has done little to help people save on transportation-related energy. The ACEEE scorecard gave Ohio 0 out of a possible 9 points for transportation policies.

Efficiency is the best energy

Although the rollback in Ohio affects programs for both energy efficiency and renewable energy sources (e.g., wind and solar), the ACEEE focuses on efficiency because it’s the cheapest, most abundant, and most reliable source of energy. Here’s how the group puts it:

“The potential for new energy efficiency gains is enormous. The United States could reduce its energy use—by as much as 40-60% by 2050—if we are willing to embrace a more focused and aggressive approach…If we can realize deep reductions in energy use, we can make our economy more productive, creating jobs, improving our energy security, and addressing climate change. Energy efficiency measures lead to more jobs because investments in energy efficiency are more labor intensive per dollar spent than building new power plants and developing fossil fuel resources. And, when energy efficiency reduces energy bills, the resulting savings can be reinvested in the economy.

“Energy efficiency improves our security by reducing the amount of energy we need to purchase from unstable regions of the world. It can also reduce the strain on power, pipeline, and rail systems, improving reliability. Energy efficiency helps the environment by reducing air pollution from burning fuels and reducing the need to build and develop new mines, wells, and power plants. Energy efficiency is far more achievable than other mitigation options. As a result, it should be the first strategy for improving our environment.”

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