Ohio's Opposition to Clean Energy Continues — What Happens Next?

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Gov. John Kasich has a big decision to make — amidst a sea of them, frankly — about the near-term future of Ohio's energy standards. In 2008, the state approved a law that demands 25 percent of all energy use in Ohio must come from renewable resources by 2025. The incremental march toward that goal has been frozen since 2014, and it looks like the state may continue that freeze indefinitely.

The governor has been wary of his state looking like it's backing away from renewable energy, although it certainly is. "I just would hope the legislature will not have a headline that Ohio went backward on the environment," Kasich said during a November press conference. "I just don't want to see that." (Too late?) It was Kasich himself who froze the energy standards in 2014.

For now, HB 554 awaits his signature.

The bill would make Ohio's renewable energy standards — using wind and solar energy, sourcing in-state energy providers, etc. — voluntary for the next two years. Twisting the dagger just so, legislators tossed the in-state sourcing requirement entirely. The net result is essentially a two-year freeze, and a step backward from even the 2014 measure.

"What we're doing here is not an overhaul," Rep. Ron Amstutz, the Wooster Republican sponsoring the bill, told the Columbus Dispatch. "It's a tune-up."

Of course, you're going to see companies like FirstEnergy take the opportunity to opt into various efficiency programs that it had no role in creating — and reap untold profits. With voluntary standards, the opportunity for cherry-picking is ripe. "It's a tune-up."

What the Ohio energy consumer gets is a lop-sided landscape: Renewable standards remain in limbo and Ohio companies work the numbers game for their benefit (the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel has reported that FirstEnergy's latest move will cost customers some $322 million over three years). All this at a time when the incoming president has announced his pick for the Secretary of Energy: Rick Perry.

This one is Kasich's call now.

Is Kasich vetoes the bill, the renewable energy standards will resume in 2017.

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