Gita Subramony for Zondits, November 6, 2015. Image credit: Martin Fisch
In 2014, energy efficiency and renewable standards came under fire in Ohio. Spurred by Koch-funded interests, Ohio legislators introduced an opt-out (for large industrial customers to opt out of energy efficiency programs and surcharges), which then snowballed into an attack on energy efficiency and renewable mandates. Subsequently, the Ohio legislature voted to freeze energy efficiency and renewable standards that were enacted in 2008. The law effectively removes any impetus for utilities to provide energy efficiency programs, leaving the future of Ohio’s clean energy economy very much uncertain. State legislators also promised to review the impacts of energy efficiency and renewable standards through the Energy Mandates Study Committee (EMSC), despite preexisting data and evaluations showing the cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency programs in Ohio.
The EMSC has recently released their report, which primarily detailed the costs of energy efficiency programs, but apparently failed to document many of the benefits. Despite well-documented benefits, the report recommended that Ohio continue to freeze efficiency and renewable standards and ignored not only that the energy efficiency programs resulted in energy cost savings but also other non-energy and economic benefits.
The EMSC came to their conclusions based on data from the Koch-funded group, Strata Policy, which is managed by a team from Utah State University’s Institute for Political Economy, which incidentally has received more than $1.6 million from the Koch Brothers. Furthermore, seven of the twelve Ohio legislators on the EMSC are members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Koch-funded group that drafts model bills for its members nationally and that played an active role in Ohio’s initial freeze on standards.
The effects of the EMSC’s flawed report might spell trouble for Ohio’s economy. Investment in clean energy or clean tech companies is starting to dry up, which in turn could affect thousands of jobs in the state. In addition, without a robust energy efficiency and renewable marketplace the average Ohioan will be on the hook for costs associated with complying with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. Unless Ohio reverses course, the state is liable to be left behind as other states save energy and create jobs.