Ohio’s Successful RPS Program Under Attack in State Senate

Ohio’s renewable energy initiative, set in 2008, has been an economic and clean energy driver, lowering prices, creating local jobs and spurring investment. 

But the state senate is considering a bill, SB 58, that would dramatically lower the renewable energy requirements and seems to make compliance virtually optional.

Renewable energy requirements, like the ones outlined by Ohio’s current law,  spur innovation and promote scale – driving down costs and making renewables increasingly competitive with other forms of electricity generation.

Since Ohio’s renewable benchmarks were established under Senate Bill (SB) 221, costs have indeed fallen. The average prices for an installed residential or commercial photovoltaic (PV) system fell by 17 percent in Ohio in the last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Last year alone, $61 million was invested to install solar systems on homes and businesses in Ohio – creating 25 MW of clean solar energy capacity. Today, the state ranks 15th nationally in installed solar capacity with 80 MW, enough solar energy installed to power 8,300 homes. Two of the state’s notable solar projects, Wyandot Solar Facility and Napoleon Solar Project, generate 10 MW each.

The solar industry and the overall renewable energy community are living up to the expectations set by SB 221 and spurring a nascent industry.Making changes to the renewable energy requirements is not necessary and may in fact stifle innovation and diminish important environmental benefits.

Renewable energy requirements and the corresponding customer investments are only worthwhile if they are generating additional benefits: increased resource diversity, long-term price stability, and environmental benefits. SB 221 did all those things.

On the other hand, if the proposed bill is enacted, existing sources from outside Ohio — including hydropower from Canada — would be counted against the state utilities’ renewable energy benchmarks, discouraging continued investment in clean energy sources in Ohio or elsewhere. The current renewable energy requirements would be effectively voided and the benefits would be nullified.

Under the current law, if a utility does not comply with the benchmarks and is not exempted by the Commission, the utility must pay a penalty. The proposed bill, SB 58, appears to make that penalty optional, changing the “shall” to “may.”

SB 221 has allowed the solar industry to lower costs, help diversify the electricity system, provide price stability to its customers, and invest in local communities. This is a tremendous success story that should continue.

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Carrie Cullen Hitt serves as senior vice president of state affairs for SEIA and was previously president of the Solar Alliance, which merged with SEIA in 2012. Prior to joining the Solar Alliance, Carrie served as vice president of renewable products for Constellation Energy. In this role, she developed programs and capabilities to help customers manage their business' impact on the environment through greenhouse gas reducing activities, including purchasing renewable power.She also served as vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Constellation from 2002 to 2007. From 1999 to 2001, she worked at Green Mountain Energy Resources as director of regional business development. She has also held energy-related positions at the Massachusetts Legislature and Harvard University.Carrie holds an undergraduate degree from Clark University and an M.A. from the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University. She currently serves on the advisory council of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA).

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