Ohio kicks RPS vote into next week

Ohio’s House of Representatives will put off until next week a vote that would impose a two-year freeze on the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, giving lawmakers an additional weekend to weigh the issue as it gains prominence in the media.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate, could be put to a vote in the House as early as 27 May, with Senate leaders insisting it will be taken up before the end of next week, when lawmakers leave for their summer recess.

A two-year freeze on Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – passed in 2008 under a Democratic governor – would severely dent investment into the state’s growing wind and solar industries, renewables advocates argue.

Ohio has the highest number of wind-related manufacturing facilities in the US, according to the American Wind Energy Association, and also hosts First Solar’s lone US module factory, in Perrysburg.

Ohio has been among the fastest growing US wind markets in recent years, and is seen as having significant potential, both onshore and offshore in Lake Erie.

But the political impact of the freeze would be felt far beyond Ohio’s borders, as it would represent the first time a US state has formally watered down its RPS.

A number of states have fended off recent challenges to their own renewables mandates, most notably Kansas, and the number of well-funded legislative challenges to the mandates is expected to grow.

The Ohio bill would give utilities a pass on how they generate their electricity for the next two years, while a new committee is established to study future energy policy in the state.

Governor John Kasich, a Republican, is largely supportive of the freeze, having shot down an earlier version which would have binned the RPS altogether.

Communicating through a spokesman, Kasich has called Ohio’s RPS – which mandates that 12.5% of the state’s electricity come from renewables by 2025 – an “unachievable” aim.

“The environmentalists, and the bankers who paid for their wind and solar projects, want zero changes to Ohio’s flawed renewable energy standards, while those on the other side would like to scrap renewable energy altogether,” says Kasich’s spokesman. “Neither extreme is right.”

Some stakeholders have urged lawmakers to compromise on the issue, embracing a one- rather than two-year freeze.