Citing the changing economy and energy marketplace and the discovery of Ohio shale gas since the enactment of Senate Bill 221 in 2008, Senator Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) has introduced Senate Bill 58 to overhaul the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards and programs.  Originally introduced last spring as a placeholder bill around which to conduct legislative hearings, a comprehensive substitute bill was introduced in committee at the end of last month.  The bill proposes several changes, some of which include:

  • Broadening what “counts” as an energy efficiency measure - for instance, allowing utilities to count efficiency improvements to their own network - making it easier for utilities to comply with the energy efficiency targets.  Also, it would allow any improvement that reduces energy usage to “count” - not just those improvements that create “additional” efficiency beyond what would be created by a normal course of business upgrade.
  • Creating a new opt-out program for large energy users - allowing them to forego surcharges directed toward funding grants for energy efficiency projects, but also denying them the opportunity to receive those grants.
  • Placing a dollar-amount cost cap, in addition to the percentage cost cap, on the utilities’ required annual spending on renewable energy sources.
  • Removing a provision requiring a utility to purchase half of its renewable energy from Ohio producers.

Proponents and opponents alike have lined up to testify during the hours-long hearings being conducted by the Senate Public Utilities Committee.  Proponents, including some of Ohio’s largest manufacturers, praise the bill’s provisions, particularly the new opt-out program and the new counting standards.  The opponents believe that the bill weakens the progress Ohio has made in promoting energy diversity and jeopardizes Ohio’s growing renewable energy industry.  Hearings are expected to continue in the Senate through November 1, 2013, at which point Senator Seitz, who is also the chair of the committee, expects to begin work on amendments.  A House bill on the same topic is expected soon, with an informational hearing scheduled in the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee this week.