Senate Committee Hears Two School Energy Bills
The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee heard two bills February 2 that would affect the future energy use by schools.
SB223 ENERGY IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS (Stewart J) To expand special improvement district energy improvement projects and to expand the municipal solar energy revolving loan program law to include alternative energy.
Sen. Stewart introduced his bill that would expand the revolving loan program included in HB1 (Sykes) to municipalities for alternative energy projects such as wind, solar, geothermal and weatherization.
Stewart said he was approached by members of Athens City Council about offering an amendment to HB1 that would allow municipalities to create a revolving loan fund used to finance installation of solar panels on residential property. This amendment was included in HB1 and municipalities can now take advantage of this program.
The purpose of SB223 is to expand this loan fund to other types of alternative energy for municipalities with some criteria. To establish an alternative energy revolving loan fund, a municipality must first seek initial start-up, “seed” money. This funding can come from a variety of sources including federal grants, bonds and private donations.
After the initial “seed” funding is in place, the municipality would then establish a Special Energy Improvement District, which would allow residents to repay their loan through a special assessment on their property taxes. As borrowers repay their loans, the money collected is directly deposited back into the self-sustaining alternative energy revolving loan fund to finance the next round of installations, Stewart explained.
HB113 SCHOOL ENERGY MEASURES (Foley M) To authorize school boards, for on-site renewable energy generation measures and in the same manner as for energy conservation measures, to enter into installment contracts subject to specified terms of payment.
Chairman Widener suggested that Reps. Foley and Blessing consider offering the school districts a financial incentive of $1,000 to $5,000 to file a Request for Proposal (RFP) as mandated by this legislation.
In initial testimony Foley stated, “If school districts are hesitant and find that these requests for proposals return results that would prove to not be economically beneficial over a 30-year period, they would not have to go further in the pilot program.”
Widener and Sen. Schaffer asked about the administrative cost for the school districts to write an RFP. Blessing said the RFP is one page and would take someone about 10 minutes to fill out. Some solar companies will mail information to the school districts to help them.  Further, Blessing explained that much of this work has already been done by the Ohio School Facilities Commission.
Foley and Blessing said they have met with school districts and major stakeholders in the school system and at the end of the day they felt comfortable with this bill.
This bill, which passed in a bipartisan vote in the House, would mandate local school districts to investigate the economic viability of installing renewable energy systems in their buildings, but would not mandate actual installation.
Foley said the legislation allows public schools to be leaders in pushing forward a new green economy while saving costs through renewable energy implementation on campuses across Ohio. The bill does two major things: first, it would remove the barriers for installing renewable energy systems in schools by allowing school boards to implement new onsite renewable energy generating measures.
Before, schools were authorized to implement energy conservation through equipment upgrades, weatherizing and other measures but were not authorized to generate their own electricity from renewable energy resources.
Secondly and most importantly, Foley said, the bill creates a two-tiered program wherein school districts with 5,000 to 10,000 students would be asked to generate 250 kilowatts of energy through renewable sources. The districts with more than 10,000 students would be required to generate 500 kilowatts.