The meat of Ohio’s new clean energy law, S.B. 221, is an alternative energy portfolio standard and energy efficiency requirements. The alternative energy portfolio standard mandates that by 2025, 25 percent of the electricity sold within in Ohio must be produced from alternative energy sources, including 12.5 percent renewable energy sources like solar and wind farms. Meanwhile, the energy efficiency provisions will require utilities to implement measures that reduce electricity demand by 22 percent by 2025.
Enacted in July of 2008, S.B. 221 gives Ohio one of the most aggressive energy efficiency and renewable energy laws in the country. But throughout 2009, we have been engaged in a struggle to ensure that the bill’s affirmative requirements are enforced and that Ohioans benefit from the cleaner air they can bring.
Biggest Win in 2009: Helping Draft Ohio’s Aggressive Clean Energy Rule Set
The biggest victory of 2009 has been the implementation of the rules associated with S.B. 221. While the statute itself outlines many of the affirmative requirements–such as the energy efficiency and solar energy benchmarks that utilities must meet each year–the PUCO has the legal authority to draft rules expanding upon on how the statute will be interpreted and enforced by the Commission. (For example, the rules will determine exactly what measures utilities may count as “energy efficiency” and the manner in which efficiency will be credited.) Therefore, the rulemaking process became a top priority of ours–almost as high a priority as working pass the statute itself.
In the last six months, we’ve submitted written comments to the PUCO, intervened in rulemaking cases, negotiated with Commission staff and members of the General Assembly, and worked with partners like the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel to ensure that the PUCO promulgated a good set of rules, one that will markedly improve the air quality in Ohio. The full S.B. 221 rule set has just been finalized, and overall we are happy that the rules conform to the intent of the law.
Another of our most significant legal victories at the PUCO came just last week when the commission granted our Motion to Dismiss in a case in which an electric utility was seeking to avoid the energy efficiency and demand reduction benchmark requirements of S.B. 221. As a result of the Commission’s decision, electric utilities will not be able to count actions taken before the effective date of the statute to meet their efficiency benchmarks. In other words, the Commission has told utilities that they must undertake NEW energy efficiency programs.
(Click Here to Read OEC’s Press Release on the Dismissal.)
Outlook for 2010: A Renewed Legal Battle to Enforce S.B. 221
While some utilities have made a good faith effort to comply with S.B. 221–see, for example, our settlement with American Electric Power–others are intent on fighting tooth and nail to avoid the law’s mandates. To date, the OELC has intervened in over 30 cases to ensure that all utilities comply with the law.
For example, we are involved in litigation to make sure that utilities cannot obtain waivers–or avoid altogether–for their renewable energy requirements without a real showing of hardship. We’re also working hard to make sure that only new energy efficiency programs count towards a utility’s benchmark obligations–as the statute intends. Finally, in the coming months, we’re going to take a closer look at the rules regarding biomass-based generation to make sure that those fuel sources are truly renewable.
As one of the chief enforcers of the energy efficiency, renewable energy, and demand reduction components of S.B. 221, the OELC is on the front lines in the battle against climate change. Through our legal advocacy, we are making sure that all electric utilities comply with the law, as the legislature intended, and that Ohioans will be able to enjoy cleaner air in the future.
In 2008 and 2009, we helped push through a good law and a good rule set, and we had several major legal victories at the PUCO. In 2010, however, we may have an even tougher battle ensuring that the standards are fully enforced.
To help support our efforts to fight for clean air at the PUCO, you may donate to the OELC securely online.