Bill Seitz is back, still trying to kill solar in Ohio

Some horror-film villains are iconic because they refuse to die. Chuckie. Jason. Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. Well, Ohio has its own version of this pesky undead characters in Cincinnati-area Rep. Bill Seitz.

After nine years of trying to turn Ohio’s miniscule renewable portfolio standard (RPS) – 12.5% by 2026, with a 0.5% solar carve-out – into a voluntary program for the state’s powerful utilities from his perch in the Ohio Senate, solar industry observers breathed a sigh of relief last year when Seitz was term-limited out of office.

Unfortunately, there was no rule against Seitz running again for the House of Representatives’ seat he had left to join the Senate. So he ran and won – and now he’s back in the House, where he continued his never-ending battle to kill solar by introducing House Bill (HB) 114, which passed the House yesterday on a vote of 65-31. The bill, like its Seitz-sponsored Senate counterpart Senate Bill 310 last year, would essentially eliminate the RPS and allow the utilities to ignore renewable energy entirely.

Seitz’s bill landed on the desk of Ohio Gov. John Kasich in December, where it anticlimacticly died by the stroke a veto pen. But Seitz clearly internalized W.E. Hickson’s famous proverb as a child: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Before the veto ink was barely dry, Seitz was at it again in the House with HB 114.

What makes Seitz’s opposition to renewable energy almost inexplicable is that according to The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, Hamilton County – remember, the one Seitz supposedly represents – is home to the second most solar jobs in the state (540). Hamilton, a deeply Republican county, finishes second only to Cuyahoga County, the state’s most reliably Democratic county.

Reaction to the passage came swiftly from pro-solar forces operating in the state.

“The Ohio House’s obsession with archaic energy policy ignores the enormous job potential in the clean energy industry,” said Jennifer Miller, director of the Sierra Club’s Ohio chapter. “While Ohio remains a leader in clean energy jobs, Michigan and Indiana are experiencing faster job growth in the clean-tech sector since the Ohio legislature began fooling around with Ohio’s clean energy progress.”

“There are investments in clean energy jobs already moving forward in Ohio, with American Electric Power (AEP) focused on creating jobs in Southeast Ohio that employ military veterans,” Miller says. “Passing this bill indicates that the state is closed for projects like AEP’s that move Ohio’s energy economy forward.”

The solar industry has grown more than 20% in Ohio since 2015, which is why Ted Ford, president of the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, is perplexed by Seitz’s war on solar.

“It’s unfortunate that Ohio continues to undermine its reputation and its economy by throwing roadblocks in front of renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Ford said  “The advanced energy industry has created over 100,000 jobs and attracted billions in investment to Ohio. Ohio can’t go forward by going backward.”

Though Seitz’s bill has passed the House, there is currently no companion bill in the state Senate, and the former senator’s allies in the body seem disinclined to continue to fight on his behalf at press time.