COLUMBUS — Amid conflicting economic numbers and predictions, Ohio lawmakers on Wednesday voted to send Gov. John Kasich a bill applying the brakes for two years to the state’s drive toward green energy.
The governor, whose office helped to negotiate the final version, is expected to sign it into law.
The bill’s supporters argued that the measure gives the state a chance to rethink its strategy for two years to reflect a changing energy landscape while opponents countered that this was a vote about the state’s future on which future generations will judge this one.
“It tells business that Ohio is not for you if you want to create jobs in the alternative energy sector ...,” Rep. Dan Ramos (D., Lorain) said. “Other states are laughing at us, and they are laughing all the way to the bank.”
The bill passed 55-42 with Republicans putting up all but one of the “yes” votes. Several Republicans broke ranks, however, including northwest Ohio Reps. Tim Brown (R., Bowling Green) and Tony Burkley (R., Defiance). Both have a renewable-energy business presence in their districts.
The Senate then wasted little time voting 21-11, nearly along party lines, to ratify the minor changes the House made to the bill and forward it to Mr. Kasich.
“The purpose of Senate Billl 310 is to protect all Ohioans’ electricity bills from skyrocketing over the next 10 years due to ever-increasing government mandates ...,” Rep. Kristina Roeger (R., Hudson) said. “All of these government mandates cost money, and these costs are then passed on to consumers.”
The bill has proven highly controversial, dividing Ohio’s business community.
Both sides have cited numbers showing that the renewable energy and efficiency mandates are boosting or hampering the economy, depending on their positions. Both have claimed that the other’s path would hike electricity bills for both business and residential customers.
Current law, passed nearly unanimously in 2008, requires utilities such as Toledo Edison parent FirstEnergy to find 25 percent of the power they deliver to customers from renewables such as wind or solar and advanced sources like fuel cells, cleaner-coal, and advanced nuclear technology by 2025.
At least half of the alternative power, 12.5 percent, must come from true renewables.
Current law also includes a special carve-out benefiting the solar industry, ultimately requiring that at least 0.5 percent of utilities’ green-energy purchases must come from that sector.
The bill would freeze the mandates at the current annual benchmark for renewable power, 2.5 percent, for two years while a new state panel studies the mandates and makes recommendations to the General Assembly for changes.
The bill would also freeze at current levels the mandate that utilities reduce overall energy consumption among their customers by 22 percent by 2025 and would eliminate the requirement that half of all renewable power purchases come from Ohio sources.