(Ohio News Connection) – The Ohio House could vote this week on a massive overhaul of the state’s clean-energy programs.
House Bill 6 would repeal the state’s renewable-energy and energy-efficiency standards, and create new subsidies through a new Ohio Clean Energy Fund for FirstEnergy Solution’s two nuclear power plants, as well as two coal plants operated by Ohio Valley Electric Corp.
The bill’s original language offered incentives to build and maintain zero- and reduced-emissions generation facilities, but Rachael Belz, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, said a House committee recently changed the bill to shut out renewable-energy companies from the fund.
“All they’ve done now is take out any pretense,” she said. “So now, it really is just a straight, ‘Let’s bail out the nuke plants, let’s bail out these two oldest coal plants, and then let’s just tidy up by getting rid of these bothersome standards that have been saving us billions of dollars.’ It’s a real slap in the face to the regular consumer.”
Republicans on the committee contend the wind and solar industries were unwilling to compromise on the current clean-energy standards, and claim that eliminating the mandates will save ratepayers money.
HB 6 has generated heated debate, with millions of dollars spent on social media and television ads, both from opponents and supporters. Dave Rinebolt, executive director of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, questioned why reducing carbon emissions and fighting climate change aren’t part of the discussion.
“The issue of the century is climate change,” he said, “and we should evaluate any steps that the General Assembly takes based on whether it is an effective way to combat climate change.”
Rinebolt said Ohio utility customers should have clean-energy options.
“We know that customers benefit from renewable energy,” he said. “We know that renewable energy – both wind and solar – are now the cheapest type of power on the grid, so we want to make sure those are still available. And the energy-efficiency programs are cheaper than grid power right now.”
If HB 6 passes, Ohioans would be charged a $1 fee per month for nuclear energy, and electric companies could charge customers up to $2.50 a month for the coal plants. Proponents have noted that current fees for renewable energy and energy-efficiency requirements would be eliminated, which average about $4.50 a month.
The text of HB 6 is online at legislature.ohio.gov.