A group of top advanced energy industry leaders have joined together to advocate for the extension of the Ohio Department of Development’s Advanced Energy Fund (AEF). A critical source of capital for Ohio’s advanced energy industry, the Fund is set to lose its funding on December 31, 2010. It will take legislative action between now and then to extend its life.

Ohio Advanced Energy, a nonprofit trade association, is campaigning for the AEF’s extension on behalf of a variety of companies that have relied on the Fund for project financing. Those companies include: Advanced Distributed Generation LLC, Astrum Solar Inc., EnergyWize, Dovetail, Expedite Renewable Energy, Hull & Associates, Melink Corp., NexGen, Ohio Cooperative Solar Inc., Royal Electric Construction Corp., ShineOn Solar, SoCore Energy LLC, Solar Fields LLC, SolarVision, Solscient Energy LLC, Third Sun Solar Ltd., and Xunlight Corp. A number of other companies have agreed to cooperate with the campaign on a more informal basis.

Since its inception in 1999, the Advanced Energy Fund has invested more than $50 million in about 600 advanced energy projects across Ohio. Administered by the Ohio Department of Development’s Energy Resources Division, the fund is replenished through a uniform fee on the electric bills of customers of the state’s four investor-owned utilities: American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy and FirstEnergy. As the law is currently structured, however, those fee collections are set to expire at the end of the year.

According to Ohio Advanced Energy, the benefits of extending the AEF include:

  • Job Creation: The fund has germinated a new industry in Ohio, creating jobs and attracting millions of dollars in investment from inside and outside the state. Killing the fund now would force dramatic workforce cuts and pull the plug on a developing industry.
  • Keep the Jobs in Ohio: The state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) allows utilities to meet up to 50 percent of their renewable energy mandate through projects sited out-of-state. The AEF may only be used for Ohio projects. Thus, this grant helps the economics of Ohio projects and encourages Ohio utilities to meet more of the RPS with in-state installations.
  • Distributed Generation: The RPS has helped spur a number of exciting utility-scale wind farms, and led to the construction of the largest solar field east of the Mississippi River in Ohio (Wyandot County). The AEF, with its relatively modest award amounts, encourages smaller, distributed generation projects. These smaller customer-sited projects help balance loads and, in fact, create more “jobs per watt.” So while the RPS is driving the utility scale sector, the AEF seeds the smaller commercial and residential scale projects. The two go hand-in-hand.
  • Momentum: With the passage of the State RPS and the recent advanced energy tax reforms in Senate Bill 232, Ohio is putting itself on the map as a national energy leader. Extension of the modest AEF and its current levels will send a powerful signal to the marketplace that the state is sustaining its commitment to the advanced energy economy.