This article comes from law firm Bricker & Eckler LLP and is authored by J. Thomas Siwo and Dylan F. Borchers.
After requesting comments on the matter, Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) introduced S.B. 58 in February as a placeholder bill to review the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements. A year and a half earlier, the senator co-sponsored S.B. 216 in an unsuccessful attempt to completely repeal the requirement that electric distribution utilities and electric services companies provide 25 percent of their retail power supplies from advanced and renewable energy resources by 2025.
The state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements were established in S.B. 221, which then Gov. Ted Strickland signed into law in 2008, and were further amended as part of S.B. 315, which Gov. John Kasich signed into law in 2012. S.B. 58 was described as a five-year checkup not intended to repeal, but to review and possibly modify these state mandates. Throughout March and April, the Senate Public Utilities Committee, which Seitz chairs, held hearings on the state’s energy portfolio rules.
These hearings garnered national attention when The Associated Press reported that Ohio was one of several states to have been given “model legislation eliminating the targets for renewables, dubbed the Electricity Freedom Act,” by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is a national conservative policy advisory group that includes Seitz among its board members. Throughout the hearings, little opposition was voiced against the state’s renewable energy rules as FirstEnergy Corp. and others focused on the bill’s energy efficiency requirements. During the hearings, various organizations and local governments began to voice their opinions about changing these laws. The hearings wrapped up in May, at which time Sen. Seitz indicated that the committee would take the summer to process the information that was presented.
In late September, Sen. Seitz introduced a substitute version of the placeholder bill S.B. 58 that would “remove a requirement for utilities to buy half of their renewable power from Ohio suppliers, broaden activities that count toward energy management for large commercial and industrial power users and cap how much utilities can spend on energy-saving programs,” the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Witnesses began squaring off over Sub. S.B. 58 in October. That month, the debate reached the Ohio House when Rep. Peter Stautberg (R-Cincinnati) introduced the noncompetitive, companion legislation H.B. 302 in an effort to prepare the House for the Sub. S.B. 58 debate.
Based on criticisms communicated during these hearings, Sen. Seitz announced late last month that he intended to propose two amendments to Sub. S.B. 58. One amendment would allow energy savings upgrades that utilities make on their own systems to count toward the state’s energy efficiency requirements, but not eligible for shared savings incentives. The other amendment would “amend language in the bill that would make it optional for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to assess penalties on utilities that fail to comply with the clean energy requirements,” according to the Gongwer Ohio Report. The news service also reported that Ohio’s largest utilities appear to support Sub. S.B. 58 — FirstEnergy, American Electric Power-Ohio (AEP-Ohio) and Duke Energy publicly support the bill, while the Dayton Power & Light Company (DP&L) has yet to comment. Energy efficiency had been center stage during these hearings until last week, when proponents and opponents of the wind energy industry testified and debated about the impact of the renewable energy requirement on utilities and consumers.
The Senate Public Utilities Committee accepted amendments to Sub. S.B. 58 until Friday, November 15 and will possibly have a vote on the bill late November.
Bricker & Eckler LLP
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