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As Ohio nuclear bill advances, Democrats seek to raise renewable standard

PHOTO BY Kathiann M Kowalski

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A second version of legislation in Ohio designed to subsidize the operation of two nuclear power plants appears to be have the same limitations on renewable energy development as the first version.

Meanwhile, Democrats have announced an alternative plan, which would increase the state’s renewable energy standard to 50 percent by 2050

Substitute House Bill 6, introduced to members of the Ohio House Energy Generation subcommittee minutes before a scheduled fourth hearing late Thursday, keeps language that would allow utilities and independent retail power suppliers to ignore previously enacted renewable energy benchmarks which top out at 12.5 percent by 2027.

Without those benchmarks, wind and solar developers worry that the utility market for their power would weaken.

For consumers and Ohio businesses, the future would definitely be more expensive under HB 6, though the amended version encourages state regulators to develop “reasonable arrangements” for industry.

The bill as now written would eliminate the minor fees associated with acquiring renewable energy, 10 cents to 69 cents a month on residential bills, but would require customers to continue paying for energy efficiency programs mandated since 2009. Those programs would now disappear after 2020 but could be resurrected by utilities if approved by regulators.

The revisions leave unscathed the bill’s most expensive feature — new customer fees amounting to more than $300 million annually to create a Clean Air Fund. About half of that money would go to the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants operated by FirstEnergy Solutions on Lake Erie.

The GOP majority on the subcommittee voted five to three to move the bill — without discussion — to the larger House Energy and Natural Resources Committee for a hearing as early as Monday.

The committee’s action came about the same hour that outnumbered House Democrats released a statement purporting to announce the creation of a “Clean Energy Jobs Plan.”

That plan, so far without accompanying legislation, would “strengthen Ohio’s renewable and energy efficiency benchmarks,” set a 50 percent renewable energy standard by 2050 and resurrect the state’s former Advanced Energy Standards which GOP majorities previously converted to unenforceable goals.

Enacted in 2009, the standards envisioned the development of fuel cell power plants and advanced nuclear power plants, neither of which have occurred in Ohio.

Democrats called for the resurrection of the standards and the creation of “Advanced Energy Credits to maintain a 15 percent baseline generation capacity from emissions-free nuclear power.”

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on May 7, 2019 9:33 pm GMT

"Democrats called for the resurrection of the standards and the creation of “Advanced Energy Credits to maintain a 15 percent baseline generation capacity from emissions-free nuclear power.”

Is "baseline" the new politically-correct term for baseload?

John, renewables/gas advocates have a hard time saying the word baseload anymore. It's almost like they want people to believe baseload has gone extinct, that solar + storage + efficiency + gas + wind can cover a grid's minimum level of demand as efficiently and cheaply as nuclear does.

They can't, and here's how to tell:

In wholesale power auctions, nuclear plants offer to sell one megawatthour of electricity not for $8.40, not $2.16, but nearly always $0.00 - they offer to generate power for free. By FERC rules they're paid whatever the highest offer is, so plant owners know they'll probably make some money. But even if the highest offer is $.50, running a nuke plant is so cheap they won't have a lot to lose. That's why nuclear often provides electricity to meet a grid's baseload demand - there's no clean source of energy that's better at it.

It makes wind and solar entrepreneurs, who can't offer a steady stream of electricity, a little jealous. Even though nuclear is typically the most reliable and cheap source of electricity to meet baseload demand, they want a piece of the action. So even though nuclear could meet 30-40% of peak demand most economically, here solar interests try to limit nuclear's contribution, by law, to 15%. And the reason has nothing to do with clean energy, but to profit at the expense of electricity customers.

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