Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland does not believe Ohio’s renewable energy standards are coming back any time soon. In fact, he believes that Senate Bill 310 represents little more than an underhanded effort to kill them altogether.
“My fear is, this is the death of these standards,” he said in an interview earlier this month. “I can’t imagine these folks ever, in two years, deciding to bring them back. It was just an effort to kill it.”
On Friday the 13th of all days, current Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed SB 310 into law, which will put a two-year freeze on the state’s renewable and energy-efficiency standards.
Strickland was in charge when those standards were originally put in place. During an interview after the legislature had passed SB 310, but before Kasich signed it, Strickland expressed vehement opposition to it.
He noted that the 2008 bill creating Ohio’s renewable energy portfolio was passed with bipartisan support after months of coalition building and listening to concerns from a variety of different interest groups.
“It passed with only one dissenting vote, and it’s been working,” he said referring to the 2008 legislation. “Investments have been made. Jobs have been created. There is no need for a study, but even if they wanted to do a study, there was no need to freeze these standards in the meantime.”
With Kasich’s signature, Ohio has now become the only state in the union to rollback its commitments to renewable and alternative energy.
Strickland said that he fears that with the atmosphere as it is in the Ohio Statehouse, the benchmarks for renewable energy could be abandoned entirely two years from now.
Strickland called Kasich’s pretense that he has worked out a compromise via the freeze, “deceptive.”
“He knows that as long as this Legislature is in place, as long as these district lines are drawn the way they are, they will never bring these standards back into place,” Strickland said. “It’s a sad day for our state that this has happened.”
At a recent conference called, “Manufacturing in Appalachia: Opportunities Abound,” hosted by Ohio University in Athens, Strickland’s former turf, much was made of how the state can take advantage of large-scale re-shoring initiatives.
Asked about the role of alternative and renewable energy, Dr. Charles Wessner, director of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship for the U.S. National Academies, said that anybody ignoring such energy sources is not living in the reality of the 21st Century.
Strickland pointed out that when Kasich was running against him for governor, he repeatedly said he wants Ohio to be a “cool state.”
“I guess what he meant by ‘cool’ was cutting-edge, forward-looking, things like that,” Strickland said. “He’s taken us in the opposite direction. He gave away $400 million that would’ve established passenger rail service, and now this. It’s really making Ohio look like a backwards state.”
He said that SB 310 creates uncertainty in the renewable energy industries and marketplace and will result in investors being unwilling to take a risk on Ohio.
“What this action does, it really says to potential investors in our state—job creators, if you will—it says to them, ‘We don’t want you. Go somewhere else, where you can have certainty and predictability when you invest your money. You can’t do that in Ohio now.’”
Strickland predicted more difficulty will be seen by those looking to secure capital investments in alternative energy companies.
Moreover, he said, had the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio made the right call in 2013, the largest solar installation east of the Mississippi would already be underway southeast of Zanesville. Strickland originally announced the deal for that array, but it was nixed under the Kasich-directed PUCO.
“So this administration has already taken some really negative positions when it comes to renewable energy and efficiency standards, but this most recent action is, I think, just tragic,” he said. “I think we’ll see diminished investments, and I think we’ll see fewer jobs, as a result.”
Strickland said that while utility companies are going to be really happy making more money, everyday consumers, small business owners and the manufacturing sector are all going to be harmed.
In November, Ohioans face a decision on where the state should go from here. Strickland was asked for his thoughts.
He predicated his comments by noting that he now works for a non-profit 501©4 organization as president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, so he cannot say to vote for or against any candidate, but he can comment on their policies.
“I think John Kasich’s policies are harmful to the people of our state in many ways, but certainly when it comes to the development of clean and renewable energy sources,” he said. “On the other hand, I think (Kasich’s Democratic challenger) Ed FitzGerald has an alternative approach that would be good for the state of Ohio.”
He said that the policies of Kasich and the Republicans in Ohio are hurting the state.
“Consumers will pay for it because of John Kasich’s willingness to sign this draconian legislation,” he said, pointing to the 2008 legislation as an attempt to level the playing field between consumers and utility companies. “What this action does is give us a playing field that is out of balance. All the advantages now belong to the utility companies, and the consumer be damned, as a result of this legislation.”