Ohio utility overseer: Give clean energy requirements timeWritten by Associated Press | | email@example.com
Ohio’s top utility regulator urged Gov.-elect John Kasich on Dec. 13 to keep clean energy standards in place — at least for his first couple of years in office.
Alan Schriber, set to retire as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said a requirement that utilities produce 25 percent of their electricity from solar, wind and other clean energy sources by 2025 deserves time to be tested before Kasich makes any changes to the mandates.
During the 2010 governor’s race, Kasich said he might seek repeal of the advanced energy thresholds laid out in a sweeping energy bill pushed by Gov. Ted Strickland if they prove to be driving up energy costs.
“We haven’t given it a good chance yet. I’d say give it time,” Schriber said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There’s no reason to rush into it. There’s certainly a lot of other things that are more compelling in this state to take care of.”
The commission Schriber chairs approved rules for the production of renewable energy in April 2009, roughly a year after the state law was enacted. It called for 12.5 percent of electricity sold in the state to come from renewable sources by 2025 and another 12.5 percent to come from “advanced” energy sources, such as clean coal and nuclear power.
Spokesman Rob Nichols said Monday that Kasich has no plans to fight the thresholds for the time being. He said his opponents exaggerated Kasich’s concerns about the mandates during the fall campaign against Strickland, who signed them into law in 2008.
“He (Kasich) doesn’t oppose the energy standard. He supports increasing renewable generation and wants to do everything possible to support development of an alternative energy market in the state,” Nichols said. “Of course, anything where there’s a major adverse impact on business, we would look at.”
Using alternative energy will certainly increase energy costs — at least initially. The goal of the clean energy standards is to get electric companies to use forms of energy other than coal — the least expensive option, but also the dirtiest.
“Alternative energy is definitely a more costly option than baseload coal and nuclear power — and probably natural gas as well, since prices have been falling,” said Ellen Raines, a spokeswoman for Akron-based FirstEnergy.
Raines said the company has pointed out the potential impact on consumers when targets were being studied.
“Certainly whatever added costs are related to alternative energy standards are going to be borne by customers,” she said.
Strickland spokeswoman Amanda Wurst said the law caps consumer cost increases associated with imposing the alternative energy standard at 3 percent.
“Overall, the governor thought the aggressive advanced and renewable energy portfolio standard with the benchmarks was important because this was how Ohio would grow this industry and create jobs that could not be outsourced,” Wurst said. “The advanced energy industry played on Ohio’s greatest strengths — research and development, a strong college and university system, and our historic strength in manufacturing.”
As Ohio’s chief utility regulator for nearly 12 years, Schriber said he believes alternative energy can work, given time. He’s scheduled to retire Dec. 31.
Schriber said no wind generation has been established in Ohio yet, despite approval by the PUCO and generous government incentives. The solar market is doing slightly better.
“A couple years down the road, I think we’ll all have the opportunity to see what has transpired,” Schriber said. “Things are moving so rapidly technologically, we’ll all have to see.”
AEP-Ohio spokeswoman Terri Flora agreed.
“New technology-wise, it does cost consumers more at this time. But, like all these kinds of deals that you go into, it requires long-term commitments that will eventually bring the costs down,” she said. “Think of DVDs or anything else. At first they’re expensive, then the price goes down as they become more common. I think what Kasich’s trying to do is come to a conclusion on this that’s beneficial to all stakeholders — and we think he’s right to do that.”