This column was originally published on The Huffington Post.
Utility and fossil fuel-funded front groups are peddling disinformation to attack Ohio’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) that should not be considered credible evidence as legislators debate a bill to freeze the pro-clean technology laws. Policymakers should instead consider unbiased research when evaluating the impact of Ohio’s clean energy and energy efficiency standards.
The fossil fuel-funded Heartland Institute has been using flawed analysis to inflate the cost of renewable portfolio standards in states around the country. Heartland Institute’s James Taylor claims that because electricity prices in Ohio have risen slightly faster than the national average since 2008, the state’s clean energy standard is the culprit causing a spike in electricity prices. But Taylor ignores several additional factors that impact electricity prices.
In reality, Ohio uses less natural gas (5 percent) for electricity generation and more coal (82 percent) compared to the national average according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Nationwide, the electric power industry used natural gas for 24 percent of electricity generated, which explains, in part, why Ohio saw a more dramatic increase in electricity rates than the rest of the country. The low price for natural gas over the past few years contributed to cheaper electricity prices in states utilizing more natural gas for electricity generation. Furthermore, from 2009-2011, the average cost of coal (in dollars per short ton) increased 7.5 percent in the United States, much faster than the 3.2 percent national average electricity price increase cited by Taylor. Given that Ohio uses mostly coal for electricity generation, the increased rate in electricity prices is primarily due to the cost of coal.
Another opponent of clean technology policies is Dr. Jonathan Lesser, president of the utility-backed consulting firm Continental Economics, who recently claimed in front of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee that the cost of energy efficiency and renewable energy standards would always be more than the savings. Dr. Lesser failed to include important pieces in his testimony and analysis. For example, he ignored the savings that result from using less electricity and that energy efficiency causes downward pressure on the cost of power.
The facts simply don’t support Dr. Lesser’s claims. His anti-clean energy and anti-energy efficiency stance may be a result of his close business relationships with interests whose business model directly competes with clean energy and energy efficiency. His “Summary of Experience” submitted to the Utah Public Service Commission details that he’s submitted expert testimony and reports of behalf of major utility and fossil fuel interests like Exelon; Occidental; Duke Energy; and FirstEnergy, which is an outspoken opponent of energy efficiency measures in Ohio.
Instead of listening to front groups, policymakers should rely on unbiased research to evaluate the impact of Ohio’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard and Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS), not fossil fuel and utility industry-backed disinformation.
According to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), the EERS is helping utilities reduce customer demand, thereby lowering wholesale energy prices and saving ratepayers money. The study shows that implementing the standard would save consumers in Ohio nearly $5.6 billion in avoided energy costs, far exceeding the cost for utilities ($2.8 billion) to implement the program.
And, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) studied the impact of the AEPS in an effort to quantify how adding renewable energy to the grid would affect electricity markets in the state. The PUC concluded that renewable resources like wind and solar helped to produce lower prices as a result of zero fuel costs for clean energy generation. The Ohio PUC study found that renewable energy capacity reduced prices for ratepayers by between .12 percent and .52 percent. In total, the Ohio PUC study estimated that the total savings for 2014 would be between $8 million and $28 million. The study concludes, “Ohioans are already benefiting from renewable resource additions through downward pressure on wholesale market prices and reduced emissions.”
Ultimately, the data does not back up the claims of these fossil fuel and utility front groups — and legislators should reject efforts to eliminate or freeze Ohio’s clean energy and energy efficiency standards. These pro-clean technology policies are creating jobs and helping ratepayers — it’s a win-win for Ohio, just not for utility and fossil fuel interests that want to sell more dirty electricity.