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Nightmare on Capitol Square: New coal and nuclear bailout bill is a huge blow to Ohio’s clean energy economy

By John Finnigan

Ohio’s electric industry is thriving and our energy supply is getting cleaner, with average power costs well below the national average. This dreamy scenario is the envy of other states – but Ohio’s legislators are plotting in the Capitol Square statehouse to turn this dream into a nightmare.

This nightmare is a new bill that not only subsidizes uneconomic coal and nuclear plants, but also guts the renewable energy and energy efficiency standards that have led to more than $1 billion in savings and thousands of new jobs for Ohioans. In an Orwellian twist, the legislators are trying to sneak this bailout through by calling it a “clean air resource” bill.

The bill allows money-losing power plants to receive a bailout via customer-funded subsidies, for reducing Ohio’s greenhouse gas emissions. Ohio’s two uneconomic nuclear plants don’t emit carbon, so they qualify. But surprise, surprise – all coal plants in Ohio also qualify because they made past improvements required under federal clean air law. Wind and solar plants are “clean air resources” so they are covered too, right? Not so fast – the legislators severely restrict wind and solar plants from the bill.

Nightmare on Capitol Square: New coal and nuclear bailout bill is a huge blow to Ohio’s clean energy economy
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The bailout is funded by all utility customers, even those who don’t buy their electricity from the utility. Customers will no longer be required to pay for utility energy efficiency and renewable energy programs – Ohio’s cost-effective and successful clean energy measures. Utilities’ energy efficiency and renewable programs will now consist only of those customers who voluntarily opt to pay for them.

The bill’s sheer audacity is staggering:

  • The legislators are pulling a fast one: By calling this a “clean air resource” bill they want to trick Ohioans into thinking it promotes wind and solar plants – when in fact the opposite is true.
  • It only benefits a select few – mostly out-of-state – interests: The only winners are corporations who own Ohio’s old coal plants and the hedge funds who will soon own FirstEnergy Solutions, operator of the state’s two nuclear plants.
  • It up-ends Ohio’s competitive market: Ohio’s market has helped keep our electricity prices low.
  • It crushes the state’s growing wind and solar industries: These clean energy industries have created thousands of new jobs and help fund our schools.

If legislators want to encourage clean power plants, they should use a market-based system with declining carbon limits. This would reward the most efficient companies for new emission reductions, rather than rewarding past investments at costly old plants.

We can only hope that enough legislators come to their senses and defeat this nightmare bill. Wake us up from this bad dream!

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