DAYTON, OHIO — When it comes to clean energy, Ohio is at crossroads.
Thanks to growth in clean vehicles parts manufacturing and the positive effects of previous energy efficiency policies, Ohio currently is the number 8 state in the nation for clean energy jobs, employing about 112,500 Ohioans.
But if there is a forecast for Ohio’s clean energy future, it’s cloudy with a strong chance of slowdown.
In July, the state legislature passed what Vox called “the Worst Energy Bill of the 21st Century.” Ohio House Bill 6 (HB 6) effectively cancelled the state’s energy efficiency standards, zeroed-out its renewable energy requirements and instead directed taxpayer dollars to subsidize outdated coal and nuclear power plants. Even when it seemed state policy couldn’t get worse, new legislative efforts to limit clean energy growth are now popping up, including some that are threatening farm communities and raising the ire of conservatives.
At the same time, planned federal rollbacks of auto fuel and emissions standards; the pending phase-outs of tax credits for solar, wind and electric vehicles; and the rollbacks and delays of energy efficiency standards and other policies are poised to hammer the clean energy economy in states like Ohio.
What’s next for Ohio was the focus of the recent “Clean Energy at a Crossroads” forum, sponsored by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs) and Energy Optimizers USA, an energy efficiency company founded by E2 Midwest Chapter Director Greg Smith. Appropriately enough the forum was held at a renovated former former steam energy plant in downtown Dayton.
More than 50 local business leaders participated in the sometimes-heated discussion with local lawmakers, including Ohio House Speaker Pro Tem Rep. Jim Butler, one of the champions of the controversial HB 6.
Butler, while defending his stance on the clean energy rollbacks under HB 6, listened to the concerns of numerous local clean energy executives over HB 6. He said given the choice to subsidize existing energy producers versus new clean energy producers, he decided it made more sense to side with the existing technologies. Butler also strongly encouraged individual business leaders to work with groups like E2 to sure their concerns are known, adding that he typically only hears from big industry lobbyists.
From Washington, Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said the state legislature’s backward moves, coupled with the Trump administration rollbacks, only makes the jobs of clean energy business leaders and advocates harder — and more important.
“Climate change is one of the defining moral issues of our time,” Brown said in a pre-recorded video made for the forum. “We have to take aggressive action to protect our future — now. That means accelerating our transition to carbon-free power, it means investing in the technologies that will make our manufacturers the most energy efficient in the world, it means creating jobs in clean energy jobs all around Ohio and the country.”
“When our nation takes the lead in producing and using clean energy, we bolster US manufacturing jobs and we position our nation to compete in global energy markets,” Brown said.
I couldn’t agree more.