COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine threw his support behind saving Ohio’s two nuclear power plants as green energy groups lined up Tuesday morning in a House subcommittee to oppose a clean air and nuclear bailout bill.
“You want reliable energy that’s there … you want it at a reasonable cost. I also think you have an obligation to our environment to keep the carbon emissions down,” DeWine said. “At least in the immediate future, you cannot dramatically reduce carbon or keep those numbers down without using nuclear.”
The governor did not comment specifically on House Bill 6, which is being debated and could see House action within weeks. The proposal would create a new Ohio Clean Air Program, charging residential customers $2.50 per month on their electric bill to create a $300 million fund.
The state would pay $9.25 per megawatt hour generated via carbon dioxide-free emissions, making FirstEnergy Solutions, the owner of the nuclear plants, eligible for more than of the fund, though wind, solar and hydro also could qualify. The bill also envisions having the Ohio Air Quality Authority set up a program to make payments to coal and gas power plants that make emissions improvements.
The bill also would do away with current surcharges related to renewable energy, peak demand and efficiency, meaning most Ohio residential and business customers would save on their monthly bills.
Ohio’s nuclear plants, Davis-Bessie and Perry, currently produce 90 percent of the state’s zero-carbon electricity. The plants also directly employ more than 1,400 people in northern Ohio, and supporters say their base load generation cannot just be replaced with wind or solar power.
“I’m all for wind, I’m all for solar,” DeWine said. “Those are going to continue move forward, but you cannot hit the numbers without using nuclear. Nuclear has to be a component part of this.”
Among those testifying against the bill is the American Wind Energy Association. Andrew Gohn, the group’s eastern region director, says the bill will make clean energy more expensive in Ohio.
Gohn says the current alternative energy portfolio standard sells credits based on the lowest cost, thus ensuring the lowest impact on ratepayers. Under the bill, he said, the $2.50 per month credits for nuclear plants is higher than the current monthly charge of 10 to 69 cents charged just for the energy portfolio standard.
“In exchange, they will get about half as much clean energy generation as they would under a similar renewable commitment,” he said.
“Any serious review of Ohio’s renewable energy policies must include reconsideration of the draconian setback rules imposed as an amendment to budget legislation in 2014. These rules have significantly impeded the development of new wind resources in the state of Ohio and sent developers looking elsewhere to create jobs and economic development.”
Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who has made this a priority bill, says if the measure was in effect in 2017, it would have made $300 million available for renewable energy subsidies, compared to $40 million under the current credits.