Ohio Challenge to Renewable Portfolio Standard Will Be Challenging for Solar

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After much speculation, controversial Senate Bill 310 has already cut into Ohio’s solar economy. The bill took effect on September 12, backing the energy efficiency mandates of renewable portfolio standards bill Senate Bill 221 into its respective corner, at least for a few years. Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) signed SB 310 into law in late June.

Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standards Bill (RPS) was passed in 2008, requiring Ohio utility companies to designate 25% of their energy to renewable energy sources by 2025, with 0.5% to come from solar energy. With the enactment, they joined a dozen other environmentally forward-thinking states, like Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, and New Mexico, who have all adopted similar bills. SB 310 — the first of its kind to make it into law — threatens the progress made since then.

“The passage of this bill has significantly impacted large projects, and while we are active in other states, it is frustrating that these projects aren’t being built in Ohio,” Geoff Greenfield, owner of Third Sun Solar out of Youngstown, told us.

“Before this law passed, just the headlines and debate over the issue had an effect on SREC pricing, and when SB 310 was passed at 1 a.m., the SREC market was temporarily killed as buyers and sellers froze and began looking and waiting for any market signals,” said Greenfield. Now that SB 310 is active, Ohio electric energy companies have two years to regain their momentum.

In the meantime, a Legislative Study Committee has formed with Governor Kasich as a confirmed front-runner; 11 other members are set to be chosen from the Ohio House and Senate. The group aims to hash out the keeps and throwaways of the original alternative energy bill.

Opponents submitted comments to the Public Utilities Committee (PUCO) before and after the bill passed. They cited issues with the bill’s inaccurate, inconsistent verbiage and its trade industry insensitivity, which was shown by setting the early, fiscal-year-disrupting effective date of September 12.

On July 28, Allyson Umberger, General Counsel of SRECTrade, Inc, said in an electronic document addressing the PUCO, “Placing this elimination into effect prior to January 1, 2015 would impose an unreasonable burden on the EDUs and ESCs that are required to comply with the RPS.”

Despite consistent opposition, SB 310 prevailed as planned, unchanged.

“People should be absolutely furious,” said Representative Mike Foley (D), who has sat on the Public Utilities Commission during his tenure.

In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced regulations that would require Ohio, and all other states, to reach 30% carbon emissions by 2030. Foley told us that if Ohio had kept SB 221, “we would have been on a glide path to get us there easily.”

For the everyman or woman, that furious energy he encourages can be shown at the polls in November. Geoff Greenfield said that’s where he’s headed, hoping to make a difference.

Despite a halt in progress, SB 221 is still in the ring. Ohio’s alternative energy efforts are only on a two-year hiatus, with SB 310 promising to resume mandates in 2017 with amended renewable energy requirements. Justifying the two-year gap time, officials say it will allow time to prove the standards of the original bill.