Renewable energy developers encountered skepticism as they urged lawmakers Wednesday not to tinker with solar and wind power mandates as they consider rewriting Ohio’s electricity law.
During a joint hearing of the House Public Utilities Committee and Senate Energy & Utilities Committee, witnesses portrayed a maturing wind and solar industry that would suffer considerable setbacks and job loss if policymakers back off the requirements for at least 12.5% of the electricity sold in Ohio to come from renewable sources by 2025.
Eric Thumma, president of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, said Ohio was well on the way toward meeting renewable energy benchmarks included in 2008’s electricity restructuring law (SB221, 127th General Assembly).
He pointed to two wind farms nearly completed in Paulding and Van Wert counties that generate 400 megawatts and represent about $800 million in capital spending. The facilities employed 700 workers during construction and will produce $2.6 million a year in landowner lease payments and $3.6 million a year in local taxes.
In addition, proposed wind farms totaling an additional 1,350 MW and $2.7 billion are currently pending approval by the Ohio Power Siting Board.
Edward Weston, director of Global Wind Network, a Cleveland-based supply chain advisory group, 174 Ohio companies have reported producing or selling products in the wind industry.
“Ohio has the deepest, the most extensive, and the best-marketed wind supply chain in America,” he said. “Please do not unravel an industry that presents such a tremendous opportunity for innovative and forward-thinking manufacturers.”
Colin Murchie, director of government affairs for SolarCity Corporation, said the alternative energy standards have resulted in driving down the price of subsidies through competition, and creating a thriving solar manufacturing industry in Ohio.
Revising the requirements would disrupt the industry and allow other countries to surpass the Using the emerging technology, he said.
Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester) said the witnesses were using “scare tactics about all these jobs leaving the state” to preserve subsidies for the industry and asked how Ohio’s renewable energy requirements would affect manufacturers in the state when they compete in a global market.
Mr. Murchie said site consultants say such policies play a role in companies’ decisions about locating facilities. Moreover, the requirements encourage the development of industry clusters, such as solar manufacturers in Toledo, he added.
Although the industry depends on subsidies, renewable energy is competing in the market against a vast system of legacy power plants the were constructed decades ago under regulations that guarantee a rate of return for investors, he said in response to a question from Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville).
Rep. Peter Beck (R-Mason) asked how long subsidies would be necessary for the wind and solar industries to compete.
Mr. Murchie predicted another six or seven years of subsidies would be necessary, until the price of renewable energy credits declines substantially. “It’s within sight,” he said.
Mr. Thumma said he believed wind energy would be competitive around 2021, but added that it was difficult to determine due to the unpredictability of the wholesale electricity market.
Rep. Mike Foley (D-Cleveland) said the witnesses had not mentioned that renewable energy requirements also benefit the environment.
“Climate change is real,” he said. “Allowing the market to just do this on our own isn’t working.”
Sen. Coley said he wanted Rep. Foley to realize that “those of us who have already known that global warming is a hoax still care about the environment.”