SALEM, Ohio — Ohio lawmakers have agreed on a bill that could set the state’s energy policy.
Sen. Robert Schuler, R-Cincinnati, who sponsored the bill, said a primary concern among legislators was controlling Ohio’s electric costs.
“Our goal was to moderate any increase in electric rates,” Schuler said.
Ohio’s electric utility rate stabilization plans are set to expire at the end of 2008, which means most electric utilities would be able to charge more for power. A news release from Gov. Ted Strickland’s office notes that when Illinois’ version of rate stabilization ended recently, electric bills jumped as much as 55 percent. A similar situation in Maryland caused electric bills to increase by 72 percent.
Schuler said lawmakers are trying to avoid such problems in Ohio.
Strickland called S.B. 221 “a good bill” and said it will help maintain stable, predictable and affordable electricity.
Strickland also said the energy bill meets the principles he outlined for the legislation. The principles include a commitment to accountability and transparency, ensuring consumers are on equal footing with utilities and working to attract renewable and advanced energy to Ohio.
He signed the bill May 1.
In addition to preventing hikes in electric rates, the energy bill also sets standards for renewable energy.
It encourages the advancement of wind, solar and biomass energy projects and requires 25 percent of Ohio’s electric power to come from renewable sources by the year 2025. The bill also includes annual benchmarks for achieving that goal.
Joe Logan, government relations director for Ohio Farmers Union, said the bill — and its focus on renewable energy — is good news for Ohio’s small towns.
“Such projects will not only be good for rural Ohio as a source of direct revenue, but they also encourage the local manufacturing of renewable energy related components,” he said.
Logan added that the energy bill, which was originally introduced in September 2007, puts Ohio on track with dozens of other states in terms of renewable energy. The director said several commercial wind projects should be able to move forward with the passage of this legislation.
Sen. Jason Wilson of Columbiana, who voted for the bill, noted a key provision regarding advanced energy that will benefit eastern Ohio. The advanced energy sources mentioned in the bill include fuel cells, some advanced nuclear sources and clean coal technology.
Wilson said coal is important to the economy in eastern Ohio and the coal industry accounts for more than 1,000 jobs. Implementing clean coal technologies ensures that those coal-related jobs will stay in Ohio, according to the senator.
The Ohio Senate passed a version of the energy bill in October. The House passed its version April 22 and the General Assembly concurred on the legislation the following day.