Emily Bacha, Vice President of Public Affairs, June 15, 2022
Columbus, OH — Record high temperatures are causing dangerous conditions for communities across Ohio, following a series of major storms earlier this week. These extreme weather events contributed to more than 230,000 AEP customers losing power in Central Ohio starting on Tuesday, creating additional hardship for families.
“The dangerous impacts of the climate crisis are not far off possibilities. Dangerous storms, extreme heat, and infrastructure failures have hurt Ohio families and strained communities across the state this week—especially here in Central Ohio,” said Trish Demeter, Interim Executive Director of the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC). “The power outages and rolling blackouts are a case of electric utilities putting profit above the service provided to residents. For years, utilities have used their profits to lobby elected officials at the Statehouse to allow them to take more of our money and provide less effective services. We can’t allow this to continue. We need to modernize our grid, prepare for major weather events, and expand clean energy development in Ohio. Let’s be clear: this is a major climate justice issue. Every resident deserves to be safe and comfortable in their home.”
The impacts of climate change are projected to increase in severity and frequency in the coming years. Heatwaves are currently the leading cause of weather-related death in the United States. According to a 2019 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the number of days over 90 degrees in Ohio will likely triple—from the historical average of 10-20 days per year to 30-70 days per year—by midcentury (2036-2050). Climate change is also expected to intensify storms and lead to greater precipitation across the entire region.
Extreme weather events could cause further trouble for Ohio’s electric grid, meaning more power outages for communities.
“Power outages, like we are seeing in Columbus, hurt people—especially the most marginalized in our community,” said Dion Mensah, Energy Justice Fellow for the OEC. “When the power goes out, what happens to disabled individuals who rely on life-supporting technologies requiring electricity? What happens to low-income families who can’t afford to replace groceries?”
“Especially as energy bills are skyrocketing for Ohio residents, we need more accountability and transparency from utility companies,” Mensah added. “How are companies like AEP Ohio investing in the energy grid we need to prevent future outages?”
Ohio utilities, like AEP Ohio, have been directed by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and received ratepayer dollars to modernize Ohio’s older electric grid through upgraded, smart technologies to make the power grid more energy efficient and reliable. Many energy experts agree that in order to do this, Ohio must adopt a decentralized, responsive grid through distributed generation, including rooftop solar and community solar.
Utilities like AEP Ohio have historically opposed these efforts in the interest of preserving their profit margins. Recently, they delivered testimony opposing House Bill 450, which would create a market for community solar and support a more resilient electric grid. This comes shortly after AEP Ohio lobbied Ohio lawmakers to pass House Bill 6, which bailed out two polluting Ohio Valley Electric Corporation coal plants (which the company partially owns), while gutting Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.
“As our communities face the increasingly dangerous impacts of climate change, we need greater utility accountability and greater investment in the equitable clean energy future all Ohioans deserve,” said Nolan Rutschilling, Managing Director of Energy Policy for the OEC. “That starts with supporting those most severely impacted by this week’s extreme weather and power outages, and it continues with advancing forward-looking policies like Ohio’s Energy Jobs and Justice Act (HB 429). Ohioans are counting on us.”
The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) is the state’s most comprehensive, effective and respected environmental advocate for a healthier, more sustainable Ohio. The OEC develops and ensures the implementation of forward-thinking, science-based, pragmatic solutions to secure healthy air, land, and water for all who call Ohio home.
Media Inquires: ebacha<at>theoec.org