U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis was famous for saying that a state may, if the citizens choose, serve as a laboratory and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.
It is in this spirit that I warn N.C. legislators of the potential deleterious effects of freezing the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard. Two bills before the N.C. Senate would cut the state’s clean energy goals in half and stall them at 6 percent of public utility retail sales.
In the past year, Ohio has already felt the adverse effects of experimenting with a REPS freeze and taking similar steps to move backward in energy policy.
In 2008, the Ohio General Assembly almost unanimously passed SB221, which required public utilities to meet 12.5 percent of electricity demand with renewable sources by 2024. Our state quickly became the leader in the United States for wind-related manufacturing. From 2008 to 2012, increased investments due to the standards created more than 3,200 jobs in the state, and from 2009 to 2012, every dollar invested by Ohio utilities in energy-efficiency programs resulted in more than $2 in savings for ratepayers.
Our legislature and governor chose not to pay attention to these results, and in May 2014 passed SB 310, which froze our REPS requirements and rolled back our energy-efficiency standards.
To the best of my knowledge, we were the first political entity in the world to do so after establishing standards. Though the bill was passed last year, there is mounting evidence of its harmful effects on renewable energy investment in our economy.
To start, wind development in Ohio has almost completely frozen. Iberdrola Renewables, the second-largest operator of wind power in the country, had planned 75 new turbine sites in Ohio, generating more than $1 million annually in lease payments and $1.35 million annually in local taxes. Under SB310 and new setback requirements, only two sites are allowed.
Just a week ago, we all saw the state of Rhode Island
begin work on the first off-shore windfarm in the United States. Ohio had plans to develop the first off-shore windfarm in Lake Erie, which was scrapped.
The stability of several solar projects in Ohio has been damaged by the freeze as well.
Broadly, investment companies like Energy Management Solutions, Sustainable Energy Services and FirstEnergy have been forced to delay hiring or to cancel energy-efficiency programs.
The bill has even adversely affected low-income families in our state. Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy, a collection of nonprofits that assists 440,000 Ohioans through bill-payment assistance and 17,000 families by providing weatherization services, will likely lose 40 percent of its funding because of reduced investment.
The market uncertainty has put nearly 89,000 clean-energy jobs at risk. One entrepreneur went on record saying, “Investors that once saw Ohio as a good place to do business now are looking elsewhere.”
Ohio was once a national leader in clean energy. With passage of a REPS freeze, our state has taken a step in the wrong direction for our environment and economy.
It is not my duty to look out for the well-being of the good people of the Tar Heel state. As we in Ohio and all across our nation are still trying to climb our way out of this recession and put our people back to work, I simply wanted to let you know that we have tried this experiment already. It has failed, it hurt our economy, it did not help our people find work. I would urge you to look at our state before you make your decision about what’s best for yours.
Rep. Dan Ramos represents District 56 in the Ohio House of Representatives.