Back in 2014, with the infamous, SB 310, Ohio became the first state to freeze its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and halted requirements for renewable energy at 2014 levels. This means that until the end of 2016, rather than gradually increasing its renewable energy goals, the RPS has been stuck, requiring only 2.5% of energy to come from renewable sources, with a carve out of 0.12% for solar. Without legislative action, the freeze would lift on January 1. Some Ohio legislators are not so keen on a thaw, however, and are in search of another RPS ice age.
Burr, it’s Cold in Here…
SB 320, introduced in April, was one attempt at another RPS ice age. Introduced by Ohio state Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), SB 320 would have gutted net metering, extended the freeze (again) and diluted the standard by extending eligibility to non-renewable sources. When SB 320 failed to gain much traction, Senator Seitz’s drafted a substitute bill – but it’s not any better. In fact, the new bill would remove the “teeth” from the RPS – known as an Alternative Compliance Payment (ACP). The Ohio RPS would not only be frozen again, but it would be completely voluntary, and the SREC program would cease to exist. This also means that customers who made good faith investments in solar energy before the legislature’s tampering with existing law would have to pay for this politicking – literally.
Other anti-RPS bills have also been circulated, such as Senator Kris Jordan’s SB 325, which would get rid of benchmarks all together, or Representative Ron Amstutz’s HB 554 proposal to extend the freeze until at least 2027.
Ohio, is Another Freeze Really Necessary?
With these bills on the table, you can’t help but ask if another freeze is really necessary. In comparison to other states with an RPS in place, Ohio’s goal of 12.5% by 2027 is already very modest. For example, Ohio’s neighbor, Pennsylvania, has a goal of 18%. Meanwhile, states across the country continue to increase their renewable energy targets, as they see the job creation that solar energy brings (208,859 jobs and counting nationwide, 139,399 more than coal!), and increasing interest from corporate buyers to do business in renewables-friendly states. Any more changes to Ohio’s RPS would only cause Ohio to lag further behind.
On the campaign trail and since, Governor Kasich pledged to veto any freeze to the standards, but followed up by implying that the current standards were unachievable: “You can mandate anything you want,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean you can achieve it.” Are Ohio’s standards really so unrealistic? When the RPS was frozen in 2014, Ohio was already well on its way to meeting its goals. In fact, the 2014 compliance report from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio showed that both the renewable energy and solar compliance goals were exceeded. The market will continue in oversupply – especially because bordering states may sell their SRECs into Ohio – even with a thaw.
A Thaw is the “Common Sense Plan”
With SB 310, the Ohio solar economy took a hit. Before the freeze, Ohio ranked #8 in terms of solar jobs, but has since fallen. The fall in job ranks was accompanied by a plummet in solar renewable energy credit (SREC) prices from the $65-$70 range to the low teens, affecting homeowners and businesses who had already made good faith investments in solar and were hoping to reap the SREC benefits to pay off their solar arrays. With falling SREC prices also came falling build rates, peaking at 48.3MW in 2012, and falling to only 10MW last year.
Any legislation seeking to further a freeze or continue to weaken the RPS, would only further hurt the 89,000 Ohioans employed across the clean energy sector involved with manufacturing, installing, developing, constructing, and financing. The job creation from the Ohio RPS is proof that it’s good bang for the buck; compliance is likely a mere 0.5% of other measures recently approved to support the state’s failing nuclear and coal plants.
Corporate buyers are also increasingly interested in large scale renewables. According to the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE), in 2015 alone, corporations signed renewable Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for 1GW of renewable power from Texas, 326MW from Oklahoma, and 391MW from North Carolina. Nationwide, the Business Renewables Center estimated that corporates conducted 3.24GW of renewable energy deals, and 80% of S&P 500 Companies are now publishing sustainability reports. Worldwide, over 80 of the largest companies have committed to up to 100% renewable energy usage, with U.S. names like Nike, Microsoft, and Walmart amongst them.
Unfreezing the RPS and allowing the targets to resume would send a signal to the market that Ohio is open to renewable energy business. When Ohio’s legislature goes back into lame duck session in November, the House will have 5 days to review any bills attempting to extend the RPS winter. Make sure to reach out to your representatives and let them know that no action is the best action. Allowing the freeze to be lifted is the best option for Ohio’s economic and renewable future.
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