July 30, 2019
By Tyler Stoff
Beyond climate considerations, renewable energy is also the smart financial choice. Renewables are now the cheapest source of new electricity across much of the country, and famously business-friendly states like Texas now see wind power generation exceed generation from coal. The greatest threat to renewable energy is no longer claims of cost inefficacy, but rather policy barriers to economic deployment. In Washington, D.C. and in states across the nation, ACORE is working to promote a level playing field in power markets and prevent bailouts of uneconomic resources as some policymakers try to prop up antiquated and expensive coal and nuclear plants at taxpayer and ratepayer expense.
The most recent example comes from the State of Ohio. On July 23, the Buckeye State passed House Bill 6 (HB 6), a multi-million dollar bailout of uneconomic coal and nuclear plants that E&E News notes “aligns with an agenda advanced by the coal industry, President Trump and his political allies.” ACORE engaged with Ohio early and participated as part of a broad coalition that helped steer this legislation away from its worst possible outcome, preserving a portion of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and eliminating an onerous referendum process targeted exclusively at the wind industry.
ACORE first began its work in Ohio in 2016 as the dire economic implications of the state’s restrictive wind farm setback law became apparent. With subsequent testimony and policymaker outreach in 2017 and 2018, ACORE highlighted the degree to which Ohio’s unusually restrictive requirements for wind farm-property line distance prevented wind from competing in the Buckeye State on an equal footing with other generation resources, a restriction that lost the state over $2 billion in wind investment.
In 2017, ACORE’s fight for fair and competitive power markets went national as the Trump Administration attempted to subsidize the continued operation of uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants under the guise of resilience and national security. After sustained and active opposition from ACORE and its allies throughout 2017, the Trump bailout initiative was defeated in a unanimous vote of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on January 8, 2018.
ACORE then turned its attention to the FERC’s 2018 Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) proceeding on PJM capacity market reforms, which could set an artificial price in the market for future power supply that would undercut state renewable energy policies and prevent renewables from out-competing more expensive generation. ACORE convened multiple stakeholder meetings and filed formal comments on the MOPR proceeding, which remains unresolved to this day.
Which brings us back to Ohio’s HB 6, signed into law by Governor DeWine on July 23, 2019. While ACORE and its allies were able to achieve a partial victory in beating back provisions that would have eliminated the state RPS and established an unfair township referendum process that discriminated against wind development, HB 6 will nevertheless charge ratepayers millions of dollars a year in fees to subsidize uneconomic coal and nuclear power plants that otherwise could not compete in Ohio’s electricity marketplace.
Despite the passage of HB 6, renewables are still the nation’s fastest growing source of private sector infrastructure investment. Already, nearly 10,000 Ohioans are employed at renewable energy facilities, with wind energy in Ohio alone contributing over $7.6 million annually to local taxes and $7 million to landowners. Moreover, Ohio has excellent transmission facilities to efficiently move renewable energy within the state and across the PJM market system, a common limitation ACORE works to address nationally.
With smart, market-oriented policy instead of backward, costly bailouts, Ohio and the nation at large can continue unleashing substantial private sector investment, providing consumers low electricity rates and the pollution-free renewable power they deserve.