For months, we have seen a fight play out in the Statehouse over Ohio’s energy future and the fate of Substitute Senate Bill 58 – which would weaken Ohio’s ability to pursue clean, homegrown, renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Just recently, we saw changes made to the bill.
While there are some who claim these adjustments were a compromise and have lessened the harmful impacts of this bill, let me be clear: Substitute Senate Bill 58 is still a bad deal for Ohioans.
The revised amendments would still weaken Ohio’s renewable energy standard — a law that requires a certain amount of the state’s energy portfolio be derived from renewable sources.
Yet, continuing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency strengthen our national security and benefit Ohio’s economy. They also save Ohioans money. Since the standards were first adopted in 2008, Ohio taxpayers have saved more than $1 billion on their utility bills.
Introduced by state Sen. Bill Seitz (Republican of Cincinnati), the bill would, among other things, weaken in-state renewable energy by allowing out-of-state and out-of-country sources to count toward the standard and cap investments in energy efficiency. This means fewer new clean-energy projects would be built in the state and higher energy costs for Ohioans. A recent report concluded that, if implemented, S.B. 58 would pay over $300 million annually on electricity bills, costing the average Ohio household an added $528 on their electricity bill over the next three years. It’s a dangerous move for Ohio — and one that puts our military and national security more at risk.
The facts are stark: Our reliance on fossil fuels puts our troops in greater risk abroad and endangers us here at home. And by investing in renewable sources of power, we can lessen that threat, while investing in Ohio’s economy.
Our local leaders once understood this. That’s why, in 2008, Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) was enacted with broad bipartisan support. It states that 12.5 percent (that’s a half of a quarter) of the state’s electricity must come from renewable sources by year 2025. Importantly, it requires that at least half of those sources be located within Ohio —meaning it will create local jobs in growing industries. In sum, this standard allows Ohio to diversify its energy portfolio to include cleaner, renewable, homegrown energy options like wind, solar and energy efficiency.
In the five years since, Ohio has seen the creation of 25,000 jobs in renewable energy and energy-efficiency markets — with many of these businesses being veteran-owned or employing returning service members. Should the standards continue to mature, Ohio’s clean energy industry is projected to grow by at least another 30,000 jobs. That’s enough jobs to employ every single undergraduate at Ohio University, twice over.
Today, Ohio is a national leader in clean energy technology production. This is not only benefitting our state’s bottom-line, but America’s national security.
Our enemies recognize America’s crucial weakness, one that our military leaders understand all too well. Our single-source dependence on oil tethers our military to a volatile world market and requires enormous resources to protect a vast and vulnerable supply chain. Clean energy technologies lessen these risks and lower costs. A diverse mix of energy sources increases grid stability and protects the military and Ohioans from unexpected energy price spikes.
As a veteran who served in both the Army and Navy, I’ve seen firsthand how limited energy options – like dependence on oil – hurt mission capability and put lives at stake. In Iraq, I participated in logistical operations, meaning I helped with the movement of fuel convoys —gas trucks — daily. Insurgents recognized these convoys as easy targets. On one trip, the fuel convoy in front of my truck got struck by small arms fire, began leaking fuel and nearly exploded. On another mission, the truck in front of mine got hit with an improvised explosive device — and the gunner suffered lifelong wounds. I came away from my decade of service with one clear idea: We need energy diversity to keep our military the strongest in the world and to protect our troops.
Here at home, the same need for a diverse energy mix applies. Our state’s energy future is more secure if we have more energy options, and the Renewable Portfolio Standard is critical to achieving that goal. These clean sources of energy do not just give Ohio residents, businesses and military bases energy – they give us options.
In Ohio, we need a diverse portfolio that takes advantage of the clean, homegrown energy resources – like wind and solar – available to us. Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is a vital step forward, one that bolsters energy security, saves Ohioans money on their utility bill, and strengthens Ohio’s economic security.
Any attempts to water down these standards will always be a bad deal for Ohioans. The Ohio State legislature would be smart to vote down Substitute Senate Bill 58 — and in doing so, continue this state’s legacy of forward-thinking investments in our safety and prosperity.
Mark Szabo is a Cleveland native, a Northeast Ohio resident and a U.S. Army and Navy veteran. He is also a member of Operation Free. This article originally appeared in The Plain Dealer.