Under the guise of moving forward with carbon-free energy resources, the Ohio House has passed HB 6, a bill to eliminate the 12.5% by 2027 renewable energy mandate for the state’s utilities.
What’s more interesting than the elimination is the process by which it is to be carried out. Currently, Ohio residential electricity customers pay a $4.39 average monthly surcharge to support this 12.5% mandate. Under HB 6, this surcharge would be eliminated, replaced instead with a “clean-air” fund. This fund would include a monthly charge of up to $1 per month, to raise up to $190 million dollars annually. So where would this money go?
Well, as the title may have led you to believe, the big winners coming out of the Ohio clean air program are the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants, who are both eligible and likely to receive the majority, if not the entirety of the available funding.
That’s not the only potential bill charge included in the bill, as, if passed, the bill would make law a previous Ohio Supreme Court ruling that Ohio Valley Electric Corporation could incur an $2.50 monthly charge on its customers. This charge would then be put towards subsidizing two Ohio Valley Electric Corporation coal generation plants, under the claim that those facilities are “national security generation resources.”
The bill went through heavy revisions on its way through the Ohio House. These changes split parties, with even supporters of the bill admitting that it isn’t that great. Among those revisions came some inclusions into the aforementioned Ohio clean air program, six to be specific: Hardin Solar Energy Facility, Hardin Solar Energy Facility II, Vinton Solar Energy Facility, Willowbrook Solar I, Hecate Energy Highland Solar Farm and Hillcrest Solar Farm. These already-approved projects would become eligible for the same subsidies as the nuclear plants.
Those nuclear plants weren’t ignored in the amendments, though nuclear proponents might wish they had been. A provision was added that caps subsidies that nuclear generation stations are eligible for if electric prices raise too dramatically.
The most troubling aspect of the bill is one that not nuclear, nor solar or fossil fuels, but one that sets a dangerous precedent for all potential generation projects. The bill states that any wind project located on unincorporated land, even those who have already begun construction, are liable for a referendum to be called by the residents of those areas. Those residents can then vote whether they want to approve or block the project’s construction. Again, this means that residents can decide to vote to block a project that has already begun construction.
While this bill still has quite a road ahead of it before it could become law and has already faced turmoil just to get out of the house, it feels like a step back for a state that seemed poised to carry the torch of solar development. As much as subsidies for solar projects would be nice, that end comes with the heavy cost of eliminating renewable mandates and passing a provision that could lead to the willy-nilly elimination of projects already under construction.