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Ohio To Wind Power: Drop Dead

Ohio wind power got the one-two punch from Governor John Kasich and the Ohio state legislature this week. While not exactly scoring a lethal blow on the Ohio wind industry, this week’s legislative actions will most likely send wind investors – and their jobs – running off to greener pastures in other states.

While it is not a new thing for Republican leadership to pull the rug out from under renewable energy, Ohio lawmakers can now lay claim to making their state the first in the nation to effectively roll back its renewable energy mandate.

Ohio wind power down, Wisconsin wind power up

Wind turbines by Michael Pereckas

Ohio Wind Industry KO’d By Kasich & Co.

The first blow occurred last Friday, when Governor Kasich signed Senate Bill 310 into law.

The new law freezes Ohio’s “25% by 2025” Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard for two years.

That doesn’t sound too horrible, but according to a report in North American Windpower, the new law also shredded key provisions of the standard that made the goal achievable.

The second hit came just yesterday, when Governor Kasich signed a $400 million tax-cutting bill.

Somehow, some way, somebody slipped a line into the bill placing new restrictions on wind farm siting. Despite pleas from the wind industry, Governor Kasich refused to exercise his line-item veto power on the measure, although he did cross a couple of other things off the list.

The new restrictions are now in place, requiring setbacks on wind farms to start from the nearest property line. The previous setback was measured from the nearest home, so you can see what a huge difference that makes in rural areas that would otherwise have good potential as wind farm sites.

Ohio Cuts Off Nose To Spite Wind Industry

The big question is, why would Ohio lawmakers go out of their way to body-slam the wind industry and kill clean, renewable energy jobs in their home state?

The answer to that question is right there in a state-by-state study of funding for anti-renewable energy lobbying in a report issued last month by the Energy and Policy Institute.

Here’s the money quote from EPI:

Utility and fossil fuel-funded front groups peddled disinformation to attempt a freeze on Ohio’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2014. Front groups’ flawed arguments against the AEPS and EERS are not credible evidence to freeze the pro-clean technology laws. As unbiased research reveals, the true impact of Ohio’s clean energy and energy efficiency standards were positive.

Meanwhile, Over There In Wisconsin…

Well, you never know. Perhaps the Ohio wind industry will surprise us. After all, state legislators and their fossil fuel industry funders did their best to kill the Wisconsin wind industry a couple of years ago, and it seems that they have failed.

Our friends over at Think Progress report that Wisconsin has a renewable energy mandate that calls for 10 percent renewable electricity by 2015, it has already met that goal.

Just last week, the Wisconsin Public Service commission reported that the state’s utilities generated 10.7 percent of their power from renewable sources, with wind accounting for 65 percent of the total.

Notsofast On That Wisconsin Wind Power

So that’s great, but when you look at the Wisconsin wind industry from a job-creating perspective, you can already get a taste of what’s in store for Ohio.

Yep, you guessed it. If Wisconsin’s experience is any indication, Ohio electricity consumers will probably get more wind power zooming through their meters, despite the anti-renewable legislation.

But that will probably be because, as in Wisconsin, Ohio utilities will end up getting more wind power from out-of-state wind farms.

 

How do we know that? Well, we’re just guessing, but according to a report in the Journal-Sentinel, Wisconsin utilities have been building their own wind farms in Iowa and Minnesota.

Here’s the math. Economic growth has become decoupled from electricity sales due to improvements in energy efficiency along with the rise in distributed energy generation. In order to keep making a profit, utilities have to keep the cost of their product trending down. They also have to offer a product that consumers want, and that means switching to wind and other renewables.

So, just sayin’. Ohio ratepayers will still get renewable energy, and they just might meet or beat their now-defunct renewable energy goal. They just won’t get the jobs that should go with it.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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