The legislation moving out of the Ohio Senate will subsidize nuclear, solar, and coal power while getting rid of requirements to invest in energy efficiency programs and weakening overall renewable energy policies.
The bill would tack on an 85-cent fee to your monthly electric bill, that along with higher rates for commercial and industrial users will generate $150 million for nuclear plants and $20 million for solar farms.
With a last minute change, the bill would delay the new charges and subsidies for one year.
The bill passed by a vote of 19-12.
FirstEnergy Solutions announced in 2018 that it was filing for bankruptcy and had to close its two nuclear power plants, Davis-Besse and Perry, unless they received “legislative relief.”
Lawmakers say the money generated through the new charges will be the help nuclear power plants need to stay open.
The bill allows utilities to also charge ratepayers up to $1.50 a month to subsidize Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) coal plants, Kyger Creek (Gallia County) and Clifty Creek (Madison, IN).
Republican legislators in the House and Senate said they did not want to move the bill forward with these subsidies unless it was ultimately a rate reduction for Ohioans.
The Senate says they’re bringing down rates by reducing the renewable energy standards, which require utilities to have a certain amount of renewable energy sources in their portfolio. The standard, which was passed by the legislature in 2008, is currently set at 12.5% by 2026. This bill brings it down to 8.5%. The energy efficiency mandates that required utilities to achieve a certain amount of saved energy will end in 2020 through the bill.
During the debate on HB6, Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) offered several amendments to continue energy efficiency programs in one form or another. Those amendments were rejected.
Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) made an attempt to bring back a provision that would allow local townships to hold votes on proposed wind farms. This measure was included in the House version of the bill, but Senators turned that proposal down.
The bill now moves to the House for agreement. If representatives do not approve of the Senate changes, the two chambers will go into a conference committee to reach a compromise.