By Barbara Kessler
Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich has done the bidding of utility and fossil fuel companies, today signing a freeze of Ohio’s renewable energy standards.
The state now joins Indiana, the only other state in the US to rollback or freeze its renewable energy targets, in spiking, for now, its green power goals.
The Ohio standards, put into place in 2008, set benchmarks for the state to get 12.5 percent of its electricity from green sources, like wind and solar power, by 2025.
As renewable energy standards (RES) go, it wasn’t even aiming that high. Some US states, such as Iowa, which gets more than 20 percent of its power from wind, would meet that RES already.
The governor and supporters of the freeze, known as Senate Bill 310, say it will allow time to study the standards, and make sure ratepayers aren't hurt by the coming changes.
But few observers are buying that friendly framing of the issue.
Opponents see this as cannon fire in the war between polluting and non-polluting businesses.
The RES may have cut into utility company profits, because a provision requires energy efficiency measures to help consumers. But it has swung open a door of opportunity for new energy companies and green energy suppliers.
One report, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, quoted advocates for the RES saying it had brought $1 billion in investment to Ohio.
Companies such as Honda and religious groups concerned about carbon dioxide air pollution, fought to keep Ohio’s relatively mild RES.
Former Gov. Ted Strickland, who oversaw the creation of the 2008 RES, told Think Progress earlier that it was built with bipartisan support and a clause requiring that utilities help ratepayers use less energy.
"When I signed SB 221 into law it put consumers on a level playing field with the utility companies. 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," said Strickland, who’d participated in governor’s conferences on developing wind power.
Stickland knew what Iowa officials know, that adding solar and wind power, can help stabilize power sources, which ultimately has a stabilizing effect on electricity prices. Check Iowa. It's true.
Yes, Ohio has coal workers (but actually fewer than 3,000 and many of those stand to be lost to mechanization) who stand to lose over time as the RES went into place.
But let's call coal jobs the red herring they are. This move was driven not by outgoing fossil fuel jobs, but about powerful power providers.
And it stomps on budding arena of job growth. Green energy represents opportunities for an array of workers, from those qualified to operate utility-scale projects to construction and shop floor jobs with companies engaged in making more energy efficient homes and appliances (Whirlpool also opposed the freeze).
Perhaps one clear way to understand that this freeze is good for powerbrokers but bad for people — did I mention the poll showing 70 perent of the public favored the RES? — is to hear the lament of the American Lung Association:
“By preventing any further clean energy progress, this legislation will now unnecessarily leave millions of Ohio citizens at risk from the negative health effects related to additional power plant emissions,” the association said in a statement.
“This was a critical moment in the fight for public health in Ohio. Our strong clean energy standards could also have gone a long way in meeting newly released U.S. EPA rules on carbon emissions. Instead, we will take a big step backward.”