Kasich vows to veto any legislation extending renewable energy freeze, lawmakers also uneasy

Source: By John Funk, The Plain Dealer • Posted: Monday, October 3, 2016

Green faction, conservatives have common ground, experts say
Wind turbines erected by Iberdrola Renewables as part of the Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert, Ohio, may be among the last built in Ohio if the state permanently ends its renewable energy mandates as some lawmakers want. Gov. Kasich has vowed to veto such legislation. (Karen Schiely/Akron Beacon Journal)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich has again threatened to veto any legislation that would kill the state’s laws requiring electric companies to help customers use less electricity and to sell more power generated by wind, solar and other renewable technologies.

That puts the administration on a collision course with State Sen. William Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, who has been circulating different versions of proposed legislation that would do away with or weaken future state renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates.

The standards were created by legislation originally passed in 2008. They have been “frozen” for two years by legislation approved in 2014 but are set to come back to life Jan. 1, unless lawmakers pass another bill.

“I’m for developing all these other [energy] resources …” Kasich said during a University of Texas forum over the weekend.

“I’ve told the legislature the standards that were set were unrealistic,” he said of the 2008 law would have eventually required power companies to secure 12.5 percent of the power they sell from renewable sources and to help customers cut electricity by as much as 22 percent.

The problem is that there may be a standard in the future, or there may not be. Investors don’t like uncertainty.”

“But if you try to kill the standards, whether it has to do with the renewables or whether it has to do with the issue of saving energy, I’ll veto the bill and we’ll go to the higher standards,” Kasich told his Texas audience. “So, you know I’m committed to it.”

Kasich spokeswoman Emmalee Kalmbach on Monday said the governor “has been clear” about his support for realistic standards.

“We typically don’t comment on pending legislation, however, the governor has been clear regarding the need to set and achieve reasonable energy standards and we’ll continue to work with the General Assembly towards that end,” she said in an email.

The mostly quiet but intense legislative campaign waged by Seitz and other conservatives since last spring to get rid of the standards one way or another during an end-of-the-year “lame duck” session, has some lawmakers worried that Ohio is unable to attract renewable energy companies — or companies that demand renewable energy –into the state.

And it has made Ohio-based businesses unsure whether they will be able to afford investing in solar and wind to lower their utility bills.

“The problem now is that there may be a standard in the future, or there may not be,” said State Rep. Mike Duffey, a Worthington Republican, who added he was not particularly in support of mandates to begin with.

Duffey believes that even without the laws mandating renewable energy, companies would eventually have come to Ohio markets anyway.

But all of the wrangling since 2013 to get rid of the mandates has made things worse for business here and for those considering moving into Ohio, he said.

“If you [a business] are trying to allocate resources to a number of states, you invest in markets that have the most stability. In Ohio, it could get dramatically worse. Or it could get better. That’s called uncertainty,” he said.”Investors do not like uncertainty.”

During the months of debate in 2014, Duffey said he tried to introduce an alternative propose to cut both the renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates by one-third and be done with the issue.

“Then, businesses would have been able to plan,” he said.  The measure failed to gain support.

Duffey also believes that the efficiency programs the utilities now run for customers should be ended and replaced with efficiency programs run by independent contractors not connected with the power companies. He said the utilities have figured out how to profit from the programs, which are financed by increases in customer bills.