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Will Governor Kasich’s Action on SB 310 Match His Own Initiative to Grow Ohio’s Clean Energy Standards?

Ohio Environmental Council, May 28, 2014

Policy that Gov. Kasich vowed would “last for 100 years” would be sunk after just two years if bill becomes law

A bill to arrest the renewable and efficiency goals for two years and make other changes to weaken the standards – Ohio Senate Bill 310 – is headed toward a floor vote before the Ohio House of Representatives, likely today. The Ohio Senate already has approved the bill. 

“Governor Kasich has a critical choice to make: Back or bail on his own energy policy that embraces many different resources. Cleaner air, consumer savings, and new jobs and investment are hanging on his decision,” said Trish Demeter, Managing Director of Energy and Clean Air Programs for the Ohio Environmental Council.

Exactly two years ago this Friday – May 30, 2011- Ohio lawmakers sent legislation to Gov. John Kasich fulfilling one of his top priorities: a wide-ranging state energy policy emphasizing both fossil fuels and clean energy resources. The Governor’s energy bill, Ohio Senate Bill 315 also included something of an endorsement of Ohio’s clean energy standards.

This endorsement came in the form of not only maintaining but actually expanding Ohio’s existing clean energy standards to promote two technologies – combined heat and power (CHP) and waste heat to power (WHP).

“This is a piece of legislation that will last 100 years in Ohio. There’s no doubt in my mind,” Gov. Kasich proclaimed when he signed his energy bill, Ohio Senate Bill 315, at a high-profile event on June 11, 2012 at a cogeneration development company in Akron. “This is really exciting stuff,” Gov. Kasich said about the prospect of low-cost energy from cogeneration. “It accomplishes something real for the state of Ohio.”

But just two years later, most Republican lawmakers in the Ohio General Assembly are poised to pull the plug on Gov. Kasich’s initiative and the Governor appears ready to accept this 180-degree reversal. The Governor’s joint statement issued with Ohio Senate President Keith Faber shortly after the Senate approved Senate Bill 310 a few weeks ago, indicates he may be willing to allow the legislature to thwart his energy policy.

This begs an urgent question: Which Gov. Kasich will act if Senate Bill 310 lands on his desk?

Can Ohioans expect to see the decisive, forward-looking leader who championed energy efficiency and cogeneration as two of his “policy pillars,” and who persuaded lawmakers to not just continue but actually expand Ohio’s clean energy standards?

Or will Ohioans see a vacillating politician who first threatened a veto if lawmakers indefinitely suspended the standards but then acquiesced to those same lawmakers intent on scuttling his policy?

Ohio Senate Bill 315 (Jones-129thGA) was inspired by Governor Kasich’s two-day 21st Century Energy & Economic Summit in September 2011. At the summit, Gov. Kasich praised both fossil fuels and alternative energy, stating, “renewables…we’ve got to have them” and calling energy efficiency “a no brainer.”

Adding CHP and WER to Ohio’s clean energy standards makes sense, given the environmental benefits and efficiency gains that these two technologies bring to the table. Facilities that have installed a CHP system can expect to save up to two-thirds of the fuel required for meeting thermal needs (heating units, steam production, etc.); reduce facility air emissions between 33% – 50%;and significantly reduces carbon pollution.

For example, the 84,570 MW installed at 3,500 sites across the country are responsible for cutting carbon emissions by 400 million tons each year. Cogeneration technologies such as these are attractive to energy-intensive customers – like Ohio’s manufacturers and hospitals – because it allows them to efficiently generate electricity on-site by capturing and using wasted heat that otherwise is lost up the smokestack.

“Clean energy critics claim Ohio can no longer afford the clean energy standards. But that’s not what they said just two years ago when lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the Kasich energy plan,” said Demeter. “What’s changed in two short years? More importantly, has Governor Kasich’s commitment to clean energy changed? Now is the time for him to demonstrate the forceful leadership that he not been afraid to exert on other issues.”