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In-State Renewable Energy Mandate Could Be Eliminated In Ohio

Michigan legislators have not acted to end mandate

Renewable energy in Ohio, like Michigan, must be produced in-state. But a proposed law in the Buckeye State could soon change that mandate.

The bill in Ohio also would require a re-examination of the state's renewable energy. It passed the state's Senate and now is in the Ohio House where it is expected to pass this week. Gov. John R. Kasich has sent mixed signals as to whether he'll sign it into law.

Eliminating the in-state mandate could have a profound negative impact on Ohio's wind industry. The legislation would do several other things, including placing a freeze on a required expansion of renewable energy use and mandated energy efficiency standards for two years. During those two years the actual effects of the law would be reviewed to determine if it should undergo further changes.

Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, is leading the charge on getting the legislation through the general assembly.

"Those who support the in-state mandates refer to them as renewable energy standards, but to those we refer to here as Buckeye Bob and Betty, which are the average Ohio residents, it is a mandate," Sen Seitz said. "People talk about this stuff as being green, but the only green involved seems to be the money. The mandate means the utilities can't shop out-of-state for less expensive energy and the resulting higher costs are passed on to residents and businesses. ...Obviously when the in-state energy producers have no competition they have no reason to keep prices down."

Julie Johnson, who describes herself as "a citizen fighting against a wind development in Champaign County, Ohio," has testified in favor of the legislation before Ohio lawmakers.

"This (the legislation) is a good first step because it would freeze things in place for two years and allow officials to study the situation," Johnson said. "My hope is that this will lead to them ending all the mandates and benchmarks."

Tom Stacy, an independent ratepayer advocate with a group called Ohioans for Affordable Electricity, said that if elected officials legitimately evaluate Ohio's renewable energy mandates, they'll support getting rid of the mandates.

"Clearly, if the study is conducted as it should be, it will result in a repeal of the 2008 law and a reduction in costs for ratepayers," Stacy said.

Sen. Seitz said he thinks Gov. Kasich will sign the legislation.

"We are quite confident that he will, as long as the House doesn't make changes," he said. "The original legislation included language that would allow ratepayers to opt out of paying for the added renewable costs. The governor wanted that taken out, so we took it out."

Ohio's general assembly passed the state’s renewable energy mandate, which is one of the most aggressive in the nation, in 2008, the same year Michigan’s Legislature passed its renewable energy mandate.

In regard to suitability for wind-produced electricity, Ohio has roughly the same wind status as that of Michigan. Without their in-state mandates, wind-generated electricity produced in better wind states, such as Iowa and Minnesota, could be purchased for Michiganians and Ohioans for less than half the current price.

Kevon Martis, director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, a non-profit organization that is concerned about the construction of wind turbines in the region, said there is a contrast between what is taking place in Ohio and what is not taking place in Michigan.

"Ohio is blessed to have a courageous leader in Sen. Seitz, who has been willing to risk the slings and arrows of the enviro-industrial complex on behalf of ratepayers who simply need reliable and affordable electricity to prosper," Martis said. "The statewide supporters of the IICC are waiting to see who will be the ratepayer's champion on this issue in Michigan."

Another concern for Ohio and Michigan is that in-state mandates could be ruled unconstitutional by the courts.

"Judge Richard Posner of the 7th Circuit Court made it clear via dicta that Michigan's law trips over the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution," Martis said. "Curiously, most legislators I have spoken with in Michigan recognize that Michigan's law is unconstitutional but Judge Posner's statement was made nearly a year ago and not a single piece of legislation has been introduced to reconcile our law with the Constitution."

Ohio's renewable energy law requires that 25 percent of the state's electric energy be produced from in-state renewable sources, which, like Michigan means mostly wind power, or, what are referred to as “advanced” sources, by 2025. Certain benchmarks toward that goal are required to be hit as the year 2025 approaches.

Michigan’s in-state mandate requires that 10 percent of the state's electric energy be produced by in-state renewable sources by 2015 and that the law be reviewed in 2015. There is no provision in Michigan's law for measuring emissions to determine the mandate's impact, if any, on the environment. 

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