In 2014, the Ohio State Legislature passed a bill freezing the state’s renewable energy standard (RES). The bill also required an “Energy Mandates Study Committee” (EMSC) to produce a report with recommendations on policy changes regarding the RES. The study committee is scheduled to produce a report by September 30, 2015, as required by law.
The sponsor of the bill, Senator Troy Balderson, also co-chairs the study committee and is an active member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), according to a 2011 report. His co-chair, Representative Kristina Roegner, is also a member of ALEC. In fact, there are at least eight of the 13 members of the EMSC connected to ALEC:
• Representative Ron Amstutz
• Senator Troy Balderson
• Representative Christina Hagan
• Senator Bob Peterson
• Representative Kristina Roegner
• Senator Bill Seitz (also previously an ALEC Board Member)
• Representative Michael Stinziano
• Senator Cliff Hite
ALEC has worked with its fossil fuel corporate members, particularly American Electric Power, and front groups to attack Ohio’s RES. However, Senate Bill 310 is part of a national campaign paid for by the billionaire Koch Brothers. The most prominent front group is ALEC, which is a membership group for conservative lawmakers that drafts legislation for the lawmakers to then introduce in their own states. Last year, ALEC wrote two model bills targeting renewable energy laws, one of which is exactly like the one that froze Ohio’s RES.
Other fossil fuel-backed front groups were involved in attacking the Ohio RES again in 2015. The former “Charles G. Koch Professor of Political Economy” Randy Simmons produced a report released by Strata and the Institute for Political Economy at Utah State University, in partnership with the Beacon Hill Institute. The Heartland Institute echoed the report’s findings, and acknowledged the well-timed release of the report, saying, “The Utah State study comes as Ohio legislators await a report from the Energy Mandates Study Committee, formed late last year to study alternative and energy efficiency standards in the state.”
The Koch Bothers have provided Utah State University with at least $170,000 in funding. Utah State is also the fifth-biggest recipient of money from Koch-linked foundations among all colleges since 2012. In addition to serving as the “Koch Professor” at USU, Simmons runs the “Koch Scholars” Program, which receives an annual grant from the Charles Koch Foundation.
Michael Goggin at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) noted serious flaws in the anti-renewable energy reports published by USU, stating, “When major errors in the study’s methods are corrected, the study’s results actually confirm that state Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards (RPS) like those in Kansas create hundreds of jobs and save consumers tens of millions of dollars.”
Simmons’ study uses obsolete and outdated wind energy cost assumptions to inflate the costs of clean energy in Kansas. Wind energy prices are nearly half of the Koch-backed study’s estimates, which were used to analyze the impact of the renewable energy law on the state. Furthermore, Simmons’ study uses a “statistical trick to blame the Great Recession on renewable energy” according to Goggin and misses the most basic statistical principle: correlation is not causation. Strata and USU would have simply needed to look at a state without a renewable energy standard to see that the economic downturn was not a result of the state enacting a renewable energy standard, but instead, a result of the Great Recession.
A separate report from the Center for American Progress noted that, “[Ohio] has lost millions of dollars in energy investment as a result of the rollback.” The report continued, “the full effects of the rollback of these standards will start to come in over the coming year. But I think what’s really important is we have this overwhelming initial evidence that Ohioans are being harmed economically in terms of investment and in terms of jobs.”
Ohio Net Metering Attacked
Net metering is also being attacked in Ohio by the utility companies, this is despite the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) confirming that solar installations should receive the full retail rate. The ruling, therefore, upholds the concept of net metering for the state. However, American Electric Power, the major utility that operates in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia, sued in the Ohio Supreme Court to challenge the commission’s ruling.
While the case is still pending, the commision is back to debating the net metering rules in hopes that it would resolve the Supreme Court case. The re-debate favors the major utility companies in the state, American Electric Power and FirstEnergy.