Largest Cities Urge State To Maintain Efficiency, Renewable Standards

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The highly contentious bill that would freeze Ohio’s renewable and efficiency standards is raising strong concerns from the state’s largest cities.

The standards were created by law in 2008. It calls on utilities to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable and alternative sources by 2025. It also sets a benchmark of 22 percent energy savings by the same year.

Leaders from Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland have all sent a strong message to state leaders asking them to not mess with the benchmarks. In a letter to Statehouse leaders, Democratic Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said the possible standards freeze in the Republican-sponsored bill would harm consumers and stall the state’s transition to clean energy.

Coleman’s environmental policy advisor, Erin Miller, urges that the standards are extremely helpful to city development.

“It makes it easier for businesses to relocate to Ohio or be creative in Columbus and do energy efficiency retrofits – do energy audits," Miller said. "Also install renewable energy like solar and wind and having the standards frozen would basically undermine all the efforts of those businesses.”

Columbus has made great advances in clean energy. The city has reduced greenhouse gas emissions while developing a greener fleet. According to Miller, those efforts would be in jeopardy if the state freezes the standards.

“The funding that we’ve been providing is leveraged with the funding from the utility companies for the rebate programs,” Miller said.

Miller said the renewable energy efforts would also take a hit.

“The renewable energy credit market would completely fall and they wouldn’t be worth anything," Miller said. "And a lot of these renewable energy projects like our solar array that we have at our fleet building those wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for the sale of those RECs and having that market available.”

Earlier this month, Democratic Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson sent a similar letter to Gov. John Kasich and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate. He said he’s already made the transition to clean energy a priority in Cleveland and that the standards help in that endeavor.

Last year the Cincinnati City Council, which is dominated by Democrats, passed a resolution urging the state to keep the current standards and policies in place.

It can be a competitive environment for Ohio’s three largest cities when it comes to attracting people and businesses from other parts of the country. As Miller explained, losing the standards will put the state and its cities at a disadvantage.

“There are over 20 states throughout the country who have adopted renewable and advanced portfolio standards and if we didn’t have one – we would be falling behind those other states,” Miller said.

Supporters of the legislation, including its sponsor Republican Senator Troy Balderson of Zanesville, believe the current standards will actually lead to higher electric bills.

The measure calls on a freeze of the standards so the General Assembly could carry out a cost-benefit analysis. Several studies have already been implemented but ended with conflicting results.

The said the city of Columbus has a healthy working relationship with the General Assembly and hopes state leaders will hear the mayor’s concerns when it comes to the standards.

“There’s definitely a way to work together and hopefully the mayor’s letter will influence their decision on Senate Bill 310," Miller said. "But we’re always willing to work with the state and with everyone on doing what’s right for Columbus and what’s right for Ohio.”

The bill appears to be on the fast track in the Statehouse. The top leaders in both the House and Senate have said they’d like to pass the legislation by May.