April 3, 2014
A proposal that would stop annual increases in “green” energy requirements for utilities is designed to help consumers save money on their electricity bills, the lead sponsor said yesterday.
State Sen. Troy Balderson, R-Zanesville, testified in favor of his plan, Senate Bill 310, at the first hearing on the high-profile measure. It marked the beginning of what is likely to be an acrimonious fight, with each side accusing the other of raising electricity rates and hurting the economy.
“It is evident that the current requirements are in need of reform,” Balderson said.
His bill would change a state law that says electricity utilities must meet annual benchmarks for renewable energy and energy efficiency. It would freeze the requirements at 2014 levels, canceling increases that otherwise would continue until 2025.
Senate Republican leaders wrote the proposal in response to concerns from business groups and utilities that the requirements are too expensive. Hearings will continue next week, with leaders hoping to pass the measure by the end of May.
Opponents include environmental groups, consumer advocates and many businesses, who say that the financial benefits of the current law are much greater than the costs.
“To suddenly reverse Ohio’s forward-thinking policy will send a shock wave throughout our state and clearly tells the nation that Ohio is moving backwards,” said a statement from Ted Ford, CEO of Advanced Energy Economy Ohio, a trade group for clean-energy companies.
He said the bill would harm a rapidly growing sector that employs more than 25,000 people in the state.
Balderson noted that the bill number is the same as a closely watched measure he sponsored in 2012, which regulated wild animals. In a nod to the controversy surrounding the current proposal, he said, “I’m dealing with lions and tigers here.”