Ohio’s first-term Republican Governor John Kasich said in a statement earlier this month that the renewable energy standards “are simply unrealistic and will drive up energy costs for job creators and consumers.” He made the case that the bill was a compromise from scrapping the RES entirely, and by “temporarily holding at our current level while problems are ironed out, we keep the progress we’ve made, ensure we steadily grow new energy sources and preserve affordable energy prices for both businesses and consumers.”
Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, currently President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, signed the original RES into law, and has a different take.
“Let me be clear, this vote does not represent a compromise, it represents a giveaway to utility companies and the end of Ohio’s leadership in the renewable energy industries.”
“When I signed SB 221 into law it put consumers on a level playing field with the utility companies,” Strickland said. “It was legislation developed over months of bipartisan discussions about how to create jobs in an emerging industry and position Ohio as a national leader in the production of renewable energy. It has been working — jobs are being created, investments are being made, and rate-payers are saving money.”
Since the standard came into effect, Ohio’s clean energy sector provided 25,000 jobs and at least $1 billion in private sector investment. This has saved ratepayers roughly $230 million, dropping electricity rates by almost a percent and a half.
So who is driving the opposition to the standards? Akron-based, coal-dominated utility FirstEnergy has been leading the charge, with a group of utilities spending $694,000 to donate to state legislators. According to CAP Action analysis, the six co-sponsors of SB 310 have received $141,200 in total political contributions from FirstEnergy. FirstEnergy’s CEO said that his company is “being hurt by various mandates that drive down electricity demand.” The company has even asked its customers to push for the bill freezing the clean energy and efficiency standards.
Yet FirstEnergy admitted to state regulators that the law’s efficiency standards helped consumers save $2 for every $1 spent. In total, the energy efficiency program has saved Ohio $1 billion in formerly wasted energy.
As former Governor Strickland put it: “With this vote Ohioans can say goodbye to jobs and hello to higher electric bills.”