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Ohio passes flawed energy bill

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/05/10 @ 10:00am  |  Posted in Clean energy

The Plain Dealer editors examine Ohio's energy bill, which was approved in April, 2008- including an 11th hour amendment that handed utilities an easy way out of producing renewable energy. They write:

A 3 percent cap on advanced energy costs that includes the costs of next-generation coal and nuclear plants is far too open-ended and likely to smother the bill's laudable incentives for local renewable energy development.

This unwise provision will undo most of the benefits of otherwise far-seeing renewable energy incentives. So much for the spur to renewable-energy jobs, Cleveland wind power and other important investments in Ohio's future that this legislation was supposed to provide.

Before he signs the bill into law, Gov. Strickland must fix this inequity and restore balance to what could be the most beneficial part of Ohio's energy reform.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson agreed, adding in a statement that "in creating a loop hole in the renewable energy benchmarks, the House has seriously compromised Ohio's ability to attract renewable energy companies. This loop hole undermines our ability to build an economy around alternative energy that would have materialized into jobs for Clevelanders and residents throughout Ohio."

Some of the other 29 states that have Renewable Portfolio Standards have a cap on costs for utilities-Indiana, for example, has a 2% cap. What bothers Cleveland's Sustainability Program director Andrew Watterson is how the bill lost its edge when lawmakers slipped in the cap.

"Instead of a policy that reflects our desires as a community and a region where we're placing a big bet on renewable energy manufacturing, we've slipped into the back of the pack," Watterson said.

"I feel confident we can continue to bring manufacturers here, but this makes it harder. They'll ask what this means and we'll have to say 'we have a relative level of confidence that the utilities won't fight this, at least not in the first few years.' Hopefully, the utilities will realize this will not hurt their business. They don't have to be nervous."

Investing in advanced energy does not have a negative impact on consumers or business, Watterson says, citing a Cleveland Foundation study.

The city of Cleveland already has an advanced energy portfolio in place, Watterson said. The city's policy doesn't segregate advanced from renewable energy and it excludes so-called clean coal and advanced nuclear. "We're more aggressive (than the state) early on, calling for 15% (of advanced energy) by 2015."

"I believe we will have a federal standard around renewable energy and carbon regulation that will push the entire country forward. But, that's a level playing field across the U.S. What we haven't created in Ohio is an environment that's stronger than what we'll see."

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