Ohio can’t seem to figure out what it wants to do with the state’s fledgling solar industry.
To illustrate the impossible circle Ohio is trying to square: One of state’s largest utilities, AEP Ohio, solicited 400 MW of solar projects on the same day legislators in Columbus heard testimony on whether to make the state’s miniscule renewable energy portfolio a voluntary program.
Talk about sending conflicting signals.
AEP’s call for solar proposals, with a minimum size of 50 MW-AC, is part of a broader renewable energy push by the utility as required by a November 3 order from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), which will also add approximately 500 MW of wind to AEP’s portfolio in the state.
The solar request for proposal (RFP) will give preference to sites in Appalachian Ohio that will create permanent jobs in the region. If the projects include a commitment to hiring Ohio veterans, that will also be counted in the project’s favor.
Navigant Consulting is overseeing the RFP and will accept proposals until December 18. After the proposals are chosen, they will still have to be approved by the PUCO.
After AEP made its call and waited for proposals to start rolling in, the Ohio Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee was hearing testimony about House Bill (HB) 114, which would turn the state’s current 3.5% renewable portfolio standard (RPS) into a voluntary program rather than a requirement. The solar carve out within that RPS is a whopping 0.15%.
One of the sponsors of HB 114 is – no shock here – Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati-area representative who has made it his life’s mission to destroy the solar industry in Ohio. He did it as a member of the House of Representatives, as a State Senator and now he’s doing it again as a Representative (a job he returned to after being term-limited out of the Senate last year).
Ohio Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) testified before the committee and told the assembled senators making the RPS voluntary risks driving renewable energy jobs into neighboring states and will harm its ability to attract large businesses to the state.
“It’s about time Ohio’s energy policy catches up with the changing market dynamics as the cost of advanced energy resources dramatically declines and corporate demand from Fortune 100 and 500 companies significantly increases,” said Ted Ford, President of Ohio AEE. “If Ohio wants to attract these companies and retain them, it needs to show that it is serious about accelerating advanced energy adoption. Voluntary goals don’t accomplish that.”
Last year, Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed a similar bill that made it to his desk. No committee vote on the matter has been set at press time.