State rep against freezing energy efficiency requirements

LISBON – State Rep. Nick Barborak voted against a bill that would freeze Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency requirements for two years, saying it will harm consumers and the economy.

“I cannot support legislation that will raise utility costs and stall job growth in Ohio. The current standards have led to stable energy prices and increased investment into new technology resulting in the creation of 25,000 Ohio jobs over the past few years,” Barborak said in a news release issued last week by his office.

Under the state law passed six years ago, 25 percent of all electricity in Ohio must come from solar, wind and other renewable or advanced energy sources by 2025. The law also established energy efficiency goals for utility companies.

The bill passed by the Republican majority in the legislature and signed by Gov. John Kasich freezes those requirements for two years while a 12-member legislative study committee analyzes the bill’s long-term effects and makes recommendations. When the energy standards resume in 2017, another portion of the new law will kick in eliminating the requirement that utility companies purchase half of their renewable energy from within the state.

Barborak, D-Lisbon, said instead of saving money by keeping the standards in place, the two-year freeze will raise utility rates by $150 residential customers and $31,000 for commercial customers.

“This bill will hurt consumers and small businesses in Ohio. The projected rate hikes are significant. It also discourages new investment in our state.” he said.

Opponents of the original 2008 law disagree, saying it will have the opposite effect by driving up utility rates as utility companies spend more money to comply. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, which supported the freeze, said utility customers were already paying for the mandate in the form of a monthly surcharge tacked onto their bills. The organization said Ohioians have been billed more than $1 billion already to help the utility companies comply with the energy efficiency mandate alone.

Also in favor of the pause is FirstEnergy and Timken, among other companies. On the other side is the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Honda and Whirlpool, which favor keeping the standards in place, saying meeting the standards have saved them money. One analysis said the energy efficiency mandate has saved consumers $1 billion.

The Associated Press and Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.