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Ohio budget bill “missed opportunity” for clean energy

(Photo by Sebastian Celis via Creative Commons)
Ohio budget bill “missed opportunity” for clean energy
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The budget bill finalized in Columbus today is a missed opportunity to re-open Ohio to clean energy development, after a year in which impossible setback requirements have stymied new wind farms in Ohio.

While House Bill 64 contains a positive policy development for renewable energy, overall the industry believes it is a missed opportunity for Ohio’s clean energy future.

Ohio’s wind turbine siting regulations are choking off the potential for billions of dollars of wind energy investment. In particular, we know that Fortune 500 technology companies are actively considering locating facilities in Ohio, but they demand access to clean, reliable power. The fact is, Ohio’s restrictive wind turbine siting laws make wind energy a virtual impossibility in the Buckeye State.

By opening a narrow, short-term window of 180 days for certified wind farms to utilize the state’s original setback, HB 64 clearly acknowledges that the change in June 2014 to nearly triple the required setback has made siting new wind farms in Ohio impossible.

But, the ‘solution’ falls well short. It is merely a temporary band aid, evidently designed specifically for one project. It is far too narrow to do much good.

We would celebrate the construction of a wind farm to power a new data center in Ohio, bringing a combined investment of over $1 billion and hundreds of jobs. However, we also view this to be an extremely limited provision. While we appreciate the General Assembly’s movement in the right direction, it is certainly not a solution that ensures Ohio will be able to meet the clean energy demands of all of the technology and manufacturing companies looking to invest in the state. Furthermore, it does nothing to allow Ohio communities who want wind farm development the local flexibility to choose it.

The industry renewed its call on Gov. Kasich and the General Assembly to adopt the provisions of HB 190 (the Burkley, Brown bill) and allow those localities who want wind energy the local flexibility to choose wind energy. HB 190 would also ensure Ohio is able to attract companies wanting access to clean energy.

Help move wind energy forward in Ohio! Write to your state representative today about HB 190.

At the same time, HB 64 does contain a bright spot. It extends the current tax treatment for renewable energy for another five years. That treatment was set to expire at the end of 2015.

The industry applauds the forward progress made with the five-year extension of the state energy tax policy first adopted in 2010. This extension provides the renewable energy industry with the tax certainty necessary for companies to even consider investing in Ohio. We thank the General Assembly for taking this one step, and invite them to consider what’s possible for Ohio’s economy with a realistic setback policy.

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Andrew Gohn is the Eastern Region Director on AWEA’s State Policy team. Before joining AWEA, he spent six years at the Maryland Energy Administration, advancing wind energy development in the state. He worked to develop and enact the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, as well as several major legislative and administrative efforts that supported deployment of the state’s first 180 MW of wind power. Prior to working for Maryland, Andrew interned at the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and spent time developing environmental policy in the office of Sen. Ben Cardin. He received a law degree from University of Maryland in 2009 and remains a member of the Maryland bar in good standing.

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