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After partisan energy fights, new Ohio bill could save customers money while cutting energy use

Jessie Balmert Cincinnati Enquirer

“The cleanest, cheapest Kilowatt of energy is the one you don’t use. These Energy Waste Reduction programs will save consumers money, create jobs, and reduce our carbon footprint – thereby helping to protect future generations from the dangers of climate change – all with bipartisan support.”

Bipartisanship and energy policy haven’t gone hand-in-hand recently at the Ohio Statehouse, where lawmakers passed then repealed a $1 billion nuclear bailout that’s now at the heart of a federal bribery probe. 

But a new proposal from Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township, and Rep. Dave Leland, D-Columbus, is bucking that trend. 

Their new bill could cut Ohioans’ electric bills while helping the environment – adding an incentive for companies to push energy efficiency programs that were axed by House Bill 6. 

House Bill 389 would allow Ohio electric companies to submit a portfolio of ways to reduce residential customers’ energy use, such as smart thermostats or more efficient appliances, to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for approval. Customers who don’t want to participate could opt out.

“The cleanest, cheapest kilowatt of energy is the one you don’t use,” Leland said. 

If approved, the companies could charge customers up to $1.50 a month for these energy efficiency programs. Customers would see a net drop in their bills because they would spend less money on energy.

The PUCO would review the portfolio each year to ensure customers weren’t being charged for “dubious” programs, Seitz said. At least one program must target low-income residential customers.

The proposal is different from pre-House Bill 6 energy policy in two ways. First, the program is optional rather than mandatory. Second, the targets are more modest, reducing energy use by 0.5% a year rather than the 2% required toward the end of 2027 under prior mandates.

“I was never opposed to energy efficiency. It is the cheapest form of energy,” said Seitz, who backed House Bill 6 that eliminated prior incentives. “The past program suffered from a number of defects.”

In addition to bipartisan support, the proposal is backed by three of the state’s four investor-owned utilities – American Electric Power, Duke Energy, and AES, formerly Dayton Power and Light – and environmental groups like the Ohio Environmental Council and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Seitz said he had not seen or heard from the fourth utility: Akron-based FirstEnergy. The company recently entered into a deferred prosecution agreement, accepting a $230 million fine for bribing public officials. A senior consultant said the company was reviewing the new bill.

Leland said changes to Ohio’s electric bills and the state’s energy goals should be bipartisan efforts. “These are things that all Democrats and Republicans should be concerned about.”

Read the original article here.

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