The end of every legislative year is one of the only times we see political hustle, as our elected officials scramble to pass the last of bills they scramble to pass the last of the pending bills that they support.
One such bill, Ohio’s House Bill 6 (HB 6) has until Wednesday before Ohio’s legislative session ends. HB 6, if passed, would eliminate the 12.5% by 2027 renewable energy mandate for the state’s utilities, replacing it with an 8.5% by 2026 standard before doing away with the standard entirely. To replace the standard would come a “clean-air” fund, a monthly charge of up to $1, to raise up to $190 million dollars annually.
That’s a ton of cash, but where will it go? Well, $170 million of it will go towards the financial salvation of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants. Without the bill, FirstEnergy Solutions, the operator of the two plants, has threatened that they will have to be shut down.
After the nuclear bailout, the remaining $20 million in the fund will be eligible to subsidize six proposed solar plants in the state: 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.
Nuclear and Solar are not the only winners under the bill either, as two Ohio Valley Electric Corporation coal generation plants will be eligible for subsidies created through a $2.50 monthly charge on Ohio Valley Electric Corporation customers.
In a previous version, the bill was a killer for wind development, as any such project located on unincorporated land, even those who already begun construction, would have been 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. This provision has been removed since the bill passed the Ohio House, giving state wind projects some breathing room, at least for the time being.
Even with the $20 million in solar subsidies, this bill still feels like a waste of the solar potential that Ohio has. It’s currently poised to establish its position as the most complete solar market in the midwest, boasting two First Solar module factories, as well as a total of 7,000 solar industry jobs in the state, according to SEIA. And, despite only having 208 MW solar installed t0 date, Wood Mackenzie ranks Ohio as the top state in the Midwest for solar development over the next five years, but why is that?
Those six projects total 1,075 MWac of solar, more than five what is currently online in the state.While each of the projects are at different stages of development, with some still requiring permitting and being a long, long way from construction, assuming they go on-line, Ohio will jump to nearly 2,200 installed capacity, which is just below where Massachusetts stands as the country’s current 8th largest state by capacity.
So, as much as those solar subsidies would be nice, as far as the health of the industry in Ohio goes, it looks like HB 6 is not in the state’s best interest. The elimination of an RPS policy discourages the development of solar, at a time where financially failing nuclear and coal plants have given the budding industry life.