The Ohio senate approved energy legislation Wednesday originally co-sponsored by State Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) who said House Bill 6 “looks at Ohio’s energy future by investing in clean energy,” but opponents describe as “an energy bill disguised as a nuclear plant bailout.”
By a vote of 19-12, The Associated Press reported that the senate gave its approval to a bill that gives two bankrupt nuclear plants in northern Ohio up to $150 million annually through the addition of a fee to consumers’ electric bills.
The senate’s version of House Bill 6 was returned to the House to see whether representatives will go along with changes made to the measure that the House passed in May.
The House adjourned Wednesday night without considering the revised legislation and is expected to take up the matter again Aug. 1, with the AP saying the chamber lacked enough votes to secure the 50-vote majority needed to send it to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk.
If representatives don’t like the senate revisions, they said a conference committee will be convened to iron out differences in the two versions.
Consumers would see an extra 85 cents a month charge on their electric bill if the House agrees with senate changes and the bill is signed by DeWine, with 90 percent of that revenue, estimated to be about $150 million annually, going to FirstEnergy Solutions, the owner of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants.
The rest of the money, about $20 million a year, would support solar projects being developed in the state, such as the Willowbrook and Hecate solar panel farms that are awaiting construction in southern Highland County.
According to Wilkin’s office in Columbus, he and fellow representative Jamie Callender (R-Concord Township) introduced House Bill 6 on April 12 to create the Ohio Clean Air Program (OCAP), with the intention of offering an alternative way to encourage cleaner energy production in Ohio.
In statements made before the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee and to The Times-Gazette, Wilkin described the proposal as an economic development bill that will enable Ohio to go from an importer of energy to generating its own.
“Based on my experience as a Highland County commissioner who was heavily involved in economic development, I look at this as an incentive tool to have power generation plants built here in Ohio,” he said. “It will give some security and stability to business and individuals with reductions in their bills that most will see.”
Wilkin said that Ohio’s residential, commercial and industrial energy customers, through mandates on their bills, pay monthly charges for renewable and energy efficiency/peak demand services and that would be replaced with the new OCAP program.
“The savings in this bill is even greater for commercial and industrial customers,” Wilkin said. “Your light and heavy industrial users, which are typically your bigger job creators, will realize substantial savings that they can hopefully put back into their business for expansion.”
Supporters of the bill say consumers would realize a savings of $2.82 a month through elimination and reduction of fees they pay for renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs.
One of the detractors of the bill, Dan Sawmiller, the Ohio Energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Columbus, told The Times-Gazette that he had great reservations about the legislation, calling it nothing more than a way to provide financial support for a pair of struggling nuclear power plants on the shores of Lake Erie.
He said the bill repeals the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that a certain percentage of electricity sold in Ohio must come from renewable sources, and in repealing the RPS, the state can use generated funding from the bill to do nothing more than bailout the bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions nuclear plants.
Wilkin disagreed, but said the bill does give incentives to Ohio energy production facilities like nuclear plants, which don’t produce carbon emissions.
“It’ll be available to anybody that is producing clean energy, be it wind, solar or nuclear,” Wilkin said. “The other aspect of this bill is if the utility is a carbon emitter and they take steps to reduce it, they’ll be eligible for some of those incentives as well.”
FirstEnergy Solutions said it will have no choice but to close the two plants near Cleveland and Toledo by next year if it doesn’t get the financial help provided in the legislation, which the utility said would result in the elimination of about 1,400 jobs.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.