The story behind the passage of House Bill 6 in 2019 is well documented at this point and it seems very clear that HB 6 will be repealed, eventually.
What is unclear is what Ohio lawmakers will do to replace HB 6 that restores public confidence, creates a more sustainable policy for Ohio’s future, actually saves Ohio ratepayers on their monthly bills, and creates much needed jobs for Ohioans.
HB 6 was flawed in its passage in many ways but specifically in pitting certain energy generations against others, proving to be flawed in its results for Ohio ratepayers. The bill provided billions of dollars to big energy corporations but cost the average Ohio family approximately $7 per month and stopped short the hundreds of millions of dollars ratepayers were saving on their utility bills thanks to well established energy efficiency programs eliminated by HB 6.
Perhaps even more important is that by adopting a regressive state energy policy, HB 6 has led to thousands of jobs lost in the energy efficiency industry — far more than were saved via the nuclear and coal bailouts. Thousands of lost jobs are never a good thing but even worse when one looks at the impact of COVID 19, which has clearly compounded our unemployment challenges.
The good news is that Ohio can recreate its energy future, build a stronger, more resilient economy, and help families save money each month. A repeal will accomplish some of that, but should Ohio invest in and adopt a more inclusive energy policy, Ohio will benefit for decades to come.
A recent report conducted by the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University shows how large, utility-scale solar energy projects can benefit Ohio’s economy by creating thousands of new jobs, provide significant tax revenues for struggling rural counties, and help eliminate the need for Ohio to import costly energy from other states. More importantly, the possible — $10 billion projected to be invested in these solar developments will almost entirely come from private sector capital — not ratepayers. Furthermore, it has consistently been demonstrated that solar and wind energy create more jobs than traditional forms of energy and are in many cases, the most affordable form of new energy development.
The report shows utility scale solar can potentially deliver up to 50,000 construction jobs (80% of which must be filled from Ohio residents, per Ohio law); more than 600 full time, well paying, operations and maintenance jobs; and generate up to $2.7 billion in tax revenues to rural communities and the state of Ohio.
What will this require?
Nothing more than providing certainty by signaling to private sector businesses that their investment is welcome in Ohio and not recommitting billions of dollars to bail out older energy technology that will likely seek further bailouts in the future as their facilities continue to degrade and as newer technology, such as solar, continues to prove to be less expensive to develop and provides cost savings for ratepayers. Countless other states and utilities have started down this path. Ohio can learn from likeminded states and need not be alone on a path to an economically beneficial and cleaner energy future.
Ohio should seize this opportunity to restore public confidence and develop an energy policy worthy of the 21st Century and creates a better energy and economic future for the state.
Susan Munroe is past president and CEO of the Van Wert Area Chamber of Commerce. She currently is director of economic development for Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy.