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A bill that would enact a two-year freeze on the state’s retail electric service law enacted in 2008 is headed to Gov. John Kasich’s desk after passing final legislative votes last Wednesday.

Senate Bill 310 modifies the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards that included annual benchmarks requiring electric utilities to provide a portion of their supply from renewable sources.

Supporters of the bill claim it will give legislators time to study the benchmarks – which some claimed are unachievable. Opponents argue it threatens investments in renewable energy.

The House of Representatives voted to approve the bill, 55-42, and the Senate followed with a vote of concurrence to changes made by the House.

The bill puts on hold the mandates adopted in 2008 that require utilities to derive 25 percent of the power they furnish from renewable sources by 2025. The mandates resume in 2017 at levels set for 2015 under current law.

During the two-year freeze, a committee would study Ohio’s renewable energy, energy efficiency and peak demand reduction mandates as well as the risk of electrical grid congestion due to the anticipated retirement of coal-fired generation capacity and other factors. The committee is to submit a report to the legislature by Sept. 30, 2015 that includes a cost-benefit analysis of the mandates.

Sen. Randy Gardner, R- Bowling Green, opposed the bill.

“I have always supported an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy for Ohio, utilizing traditional sources such as natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear energy in addition to other various forms of alternative energy. I don’t believe that freezing current energy standards is the right action while the General Assembly studies this issue. Senate Bill 310 does not provide the kind of balanced process that is best for Ohio.”

Sen. Edna Brown, D- Toledo, also voted against it.

In the House, Tim Brown, R-Bowling Green, and Chris Redfern, D- Catawba Island, voted against while Rex Damschroder, R- Fremont, supported it.

Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said Thursday he didn’t expect the governor to receive the bill for a few days.

The bill drew the interest of environmental groups as well as utilities and business organizations.

Trish Demeter, of the Ohio Environmental Council, in an April 29 memo to Sen. William Seitz, chairman of the public utilities committee, writes that the state’s energy efficiency standard is working.

“Ohio’s four investor-owned electric utilities have spent $456 million on efficiency programs that have saved their customers $1.03 billion to date on their electric bills,” the memo says, noting the figures come from reports submitted annually by the utilities to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

Supporters of SB 310 contended electricity prices in Ohio have risen faster since 2008 than prices did nationwide, making the state less competitive in attracting business.

Also, taxpayers provide substantial subsidies to renewable power producers – the wind power production tax credit in particular.

 CommonPeople1

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