With the effort to force a referendum to place House Bill 6 on next year’s ballot all but dead, State Representative Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) told The Times-Gazette the measure he co-authored earlier this year will be good for the state.
“I think the main benefit of House Bill 6 is it’s going to benefit Ohioans in the form of lower utility bills and more energy security,” he said. “We’ll be making more of our energy right here at home, and that equates to more jobs.”
He said the measure, which went into effect last week, should result in $1.3 billion in savings to Ohioans.
“This legislation begins a new chapter in Ohio energy policy by removing expensive, failed electric mandates currently on customers’ bills, and supporting major new solar projects, such as the one in our area,” he said.
The measure eliminates three of the state’s four electric mandates by the end of next year, with the fourth mandate also being phased out.
He said the mandates were put in place several years ago in an attempt to support carbon-free energy, and have failed to measure up to the promises that were made.
“You had these renewable portfolio standards which are hard to meet here in Ohio, look at Colorado, which boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year,” he said. “We’re not Texas, Colorado or Arizona where a lot of these renewable things work better.”
He said that when reviewing the testimony of companies that measured energy efficiency standards, a good percentage of them came from out of state.
“What happened was Ohio customers ended up supporting renewable projects in other states like Texas and Oklahoma,” he said. “And when they were done with their ‘energy efficiency studies,’ they turned around and left, and took all that money with them.”
He said the energy legislation will support local jobs and the local manufacturing supply chain, in addition to increasing the creation of zero carbon electrical power in Ohio such as the Willowbrook and Hecate solar panel farms awaiting construction in southern Highland County.
“That was another key component of the bill,” he said, “in that it addressed utility scale renewables, in this case, solar power for our area, which will be much more substantial than ‘roof top solar,’ and in my conversations with Hecate’s David Wilhelm, he said they were moving plans forward.”
Wilhelm is chief strategy officer for Hecate Energy, and said in a news release “We can now look forward to breaking ground and beginning construction on the Highland County solar project, which will bring low cost clean energy, jobs, capital investment, and an influx of new revenue for local schools to rural Ohio.”
He added that the more than 300 megawatt project, which will occupy nearly 2,000 acres of land between Buford and north of Mowrystown, represented more solar megawatts than have been developed in the entire history of the state of Ohio. Wilkin said that once completed, it will be the largest solar panel farm east of the Mississippi River.
Highland County’s other solar farm is Open Road Renewables’ Willowbrook 150-megawatt project, which will occupy about 2,200 acres and will parallel U.S. Route 62 from the Old Y Restaurant to just north of Hansen Aggregates’ Eagle Stone Quarry in northern Brown County.
Wilkin, who is vice chairman of the House Public Utilities Committee, said he is looking forward to working on additional energy legislation that benefits Ohio and its people.
As for the failed referendum movement, he said “it was a unique time, because when was the last time you saw money spent like that on either side of a referendum just to get it on the ballot? I think the only people who are disappointed it didn’t work out were the advertising people.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.