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A better energy plan for Ohio

The Toledo Blade endorsement of our Energy Waste Reduction Act: “Now, a rare bipartisan effort by lawmakers in Columbus would create a program in which utility companies could design new energy efficiency programs.”


THE EDITORIAL BOARD

The infamous House Bill 6 is best known as the vehicle of a $1 billion bailout to Ohio’s nuclear plants and a $61 million bribery scandal that led to charges against former House Speaker Larry Householder and his political allies.

What the 2019 bill also did, though, was gut Ohio’s energy-efficiency programs.

Now, a rare bipartisan effort by lawmakers in Columbus would create a program in which utility companies could design new energy efficiency programs.

If the measure is approved Ohio utility companies could offer customers programs that save energy with smart thermostats or more efficient appliances, for instance. Utility companies could charge a fee of up to $1.50 a month, but consumers could expect to save more than that on reduced energy use.

The program is a modest start at restoring a sane energy policy for Ohio. Initially, advocates aim for the program to cut energy use in the state by about 0.5 percent a year.

This small step forward is praiseworthy because it is at least a step in the right direction after years of energy-reform rollbacks. It’s also laudable as a genuine bipartisan effort. Not only do lawmakers from both parties support it, but most of Ohio’s utility companies back it as well.

But lawmakers should see it for the very modest start that it is and commit to working toward the more substantive reforms Ohio needs.

HB 6 feigned to be about preserving Ohio’s energy diversity. That is actually an important goal that policymakers should revisit in earnest.

In the current age of cheap natural gas, nuclear power just hasn’t been able to compete. But the cost of various energy sources is cyclical and the relative affordability of natural gas, nuclear energy, and other sources will certainly change over time. Among those other sources are true renewable energy such as solar and wind, which took an unconscionable hit in HB 6.

HB 6 scaled back renewable-energy goals set in 2008 that would have required Ohio utilities to source 12.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources like solar and wind by 2027. Instead, HB 6 set a goal of sourcing 8.5 percent of Ohio’s energy from renewable sources by 2026 and then the mandates end.

Ohio’s energy policy should aim for much more efficiency and encourage more use of renewable energy for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is to improve the state’s environment. But green energy also means jobs in Ohio, particularly for the Toledo region where the solar industry has been growing for years.

Moving past the scandal of HB 6 will be a long and arduous process for the state. One of the best places to start will be to begin formulating a smart and forward-looking energy policy for Ohio.

Read the original editorial here.

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