Commissioners Oppose Balderson Energy Bill

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Legislation that would freeze Ohio's renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates is being opposed by the Athens County Commissioners.

On Tuesday, the commissioners signed a letter to be submitted as testimony on the pending legislation. Senate Bill 310 was introduced by State Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, on March 28 and is currently in the Senate's Public Utilities Committee, according to the Senate's website.

Balderson's Senate district includes Athens County's Trimble Twp.

The legislation would maintain the 2014 status quo for renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates while a study committee reviews and makes recommendations on the appropriate path forward for any government mandates, according to Balderson.

The commissioners, in their letter, argue that the legislation is not in the best interests of the state or its residents.

"Benchmarks and goals that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy help drive our Ohio economy forward," the letter states. "Many innovative companies in Ohio have stepped up to reach these goals and in the process have helped make Ohio a leader in efficient and renewable energy. The passage of this bill would undermine Ohio consumers and future generations."

The letter states that energy efficiency is "the cheapest form of energy production available to us" and that half the energy produced is lost to waste.

In 2008, Senate Bill 221 was enacted with bipartisan support to encourage development of alternative and renewable energy and energy efficiency activities. Included was a requirement that 25 percent of kilowatt hours be generated from alternative energy sources by 2025, with 12.5 percent of that coming from renewable energy such as solar.

In 2014 the renewable energy requirement is at 2.5 percent, and Balderson's legislation would freeze it at that level.

The legislation calls for creation of the Energy Mandates Study Committee, consisting of 21 members from various interest groups affected by existing mandates. The committee would have several tasks, including a cost-benefit analysis on the effects maintaining the mandates at the levels established by Senate Bill 221 or at the 2014 level going forward, according to Balderson.

Balderson, in his testimony in support of his proposed legislation, said there has been conflicting information on the actual effects of the mandates of Senate Bill 221 over the past six years.

"Because of this uncertainty and the changing economic and energy landscapes since the enactment of Senate Bill 221, it is essential that we act to protect all Ohioans' electricity bills from continuing to rise, and therefore maintain the status quo while we carefully review the best way to move forward," Balderson said.

"It is evident that the current requirements are in need of reform," Balderson said in his testimony. "There have been studies conducted that show Senate Bill 221 has benefited Ohio customers of all sizes, while there have been studies conducted that show these standards have been very costly to Ohio customers."