COLUMBUS -- The Ohio House of Representatives will consider eliminating Ohio's energy efficiency and renewable energy standards.
Introduced today by Rep. Ron Amstutz, a Wooster Republican, House Bill 554 is a companion to Senate Bill 320, introduced two weeks ago by Cincinnati Republican Sen. Bill Seitz.
In an interview today, Seitz said his objective is to eliminate all state mandates and let markets determine whether energy efficiency technologies are adopted here and whether more wind, solar and hydro projects are built.
Opponents say ending state mandates will cripple further development of wind and solar, and hamper the adoption of more efficient technologies in manufacturing.
Seitz said he and Amstutz conferred on the issue, and the point of quick passage is to make certain the suspension of renewable and efficiency standards is in place before the end of the year. Otherwise, the state's current renewable energy requirements, temporarily suspended by the legislature a year ago, will automatically kick back in.
Environmental groups and their allies are likely to fiercely oppose elimination of the mandates. They argue that they create jobs, safeguard the environment, and make Ohio industry more competitive.
Seitz said he thinks it would be possible but difficult to approve a final version of the legislation before the House and Senate break for summer, probably sometime after the first week in June.
"I don't think we are going to get 320 through by the end of June," Seitz said frankly. "But getting it done by the end of the year is not ideal" either, he said.
Zanesville Republican Sen. Troy Balderson, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he has set a hearing on Seitz's bill for Wednesday.
Balderson said passing the legislation quickly "is going to be challenging" and that Seitz "wanted to get the conversation going" with his bill. "There are going to be some changes," he said, "but this is a conversation that has to happen."
Seitz indicated he would accept a streamlined version of his Senate bill, one that merely extended the freeze for at least three years. The House version would permanently suspend the mandates unless the General Assembly voted to restore them.
State Rep. Mike Dovilla, a Berea Republican, and chair of the House Public Utilities Committee, has also set a Wednesday hearing on Amstutz's bill.
Among the energy mandates that have been suspended is a requirement that power companies annually increase the share of power generated by renewable energy technologies, until renewables account for 12.5 percent of the power sold.
The House bill would simply require renewable energy to account for a straight 2.5 percent of the total kilowatt-hours of power annually sold annually through 2027. The bill also broadens the definition of what counts as renewable
For example, the legislation would allow a large industrial company to use its waste heat to generate electricity and sell that power to a utility as renewable energy.
Gov. John Kasich has repeatedly vowed that he would veto any legislation that permanently suspends the renewable mandates. He made that promise in response to questions from voters during his presidential campaign.
Ohio lawmakers approved the standards in 2008. They required power companies to supply an annually increasing percentage of electricity generated by wind, solar and other renewable technologies, and to help customers annually reduce electricity consumption by adopting energy efficient technologies. Only one lawmaker opposed the legislation.
Prompted by the state's utilities, lawmakers tried to permanently suspend the efficiency and renewable standards in late 2014 and again in 2015. Finally, after Kasich said he would veto any permanent suspension, lawmakers in June 2015 suspended the mandates for two years while they studied the issue. That deadline falls on Jan. 1, 2017, unless lawmakers take action before that date.
Seitz said lawmakers want to head that off by quickly passing an extended freeze of the standards.
The legislative effort comes as the fight over the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan continues to work its way through a federal appeals court in Washington. Environmental groups have argued that Ohio would be able to meet the plan's mandatory CO2 reductions through the states renewable and efficiency standards. The appellate court is expected to issue its ruling this summer.