Solar Mandate in Legendary Ohio Energy Bill SB 221 Under Threat

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The trend for solar in Ohio is upward, yet legislative uncertainty casts some doubt on the future of solar there. Several bills now being reviewed in the Ohio Senate could affect solar mandates in the state.

“Energy storage is sort of the holy grail for those of us in the solar industry,” said Eric Zimmer, co-founder/CEO of Tipping Point Renewable Energy at the 18th Ohio Energy Management Conference in February.

“The trend is upwards,” he said, yet, for the Buckeye state, developments in solar energy storage — and solar energy — are questionable.  

“It’s hard to grow when the state is pretty intent on driving this out of Ohio,” Zimmer said, pointing at the current political battle over renewing five-year-old environmental Senate Bill 221.

In 2008, the bill passed in the House with a 93-1 vote, mandating utility companies to reach 25% of their energy solely from alternative energy resources by 2025.

Of that 25%, the bill says half must come from renewables, and 0.5% of that renewable energy has to be from solar energy. While that’s good news for us, the bill has been taking a hit from opponents.

Senator Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, opposes the mandates for renewables laid out in SB 221 and wants to replace it with SB 58, a bill that salvages just the solar mandate. He says this is the only way to do “as little violence as possible.”

Senator Kris Jordan, R-Powell, sponsored another bill, SB 34, to eliminate any sort of mandates altogether, and Seitz also supports it, hoping the senate would see his bill as more tolerable.

Despite these possible setbacks, Ohio has seen some solar success on the commercial scale. SB 221 requires some Ohio city school districts to meet standards to become “solar ready,” and in 2012, Walmart Corporation enlisted solar powerhouse SolarCity to install solar panels on 12 of its Ohio stores.

Deeming SB 221 “unconstitutional,” Seitz says the Public Utilities Committee is set to meet a few more times this year before deciding whether to pass Jordan’s bill.

The holdup is from the Senate president, Senate speaker, and governor’s office on whether they want to take on SB 58 with amendments from Senator Seitz, accept SB 58 with amendments from Senator Seitz and their own proposed amendments, or keep SB 221, but freeze energy efficiency bill right in its tracks.

Decisions to keep SB 221 or adopt SB 58 or SB 34 are likely to happen this year, according to Seitz.

“I would vote for either one,” he said.