An energy bill passed by Ohio legislators is fueling heated debate far beyond the state’s borders. While supporters of House Bill 6 say the package is necessary to save jobs and cut ratepayers’ bills, opponents say the measure will inhibit the development of renewable energy.
House Bill 6 will provide approximately $150 million annually to bail out two nuclear power plants owned by First Energy Solutions, which was spun off from the utility First Energy in 2017. These funds will be raised through a monthly surcharge starting at 85 cents for residential customers and reaching $2,400 for large-scale industrial operations between 2021 and 2027. The funds will support the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo and the Perry nuclear facility northeast of Cleveland, which would close in the coming two years without financial support. First Energy Solutions is currently going through bankruptcy proceedings.
An additional $20 million raised by the bailout will be distributed among six solar power operations in the state. Also, an extra $1.50 surcharge on ratepayers’ bills after January 2020 will go towards supporting two coal power plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation. Some commercial customers will pay as much as $1,500 to fund this part of the bailout.
In addition to the bailouts, the bill reduces the renewable energy target for utilities in Ohio. Utilities now have to obtain 8.5 percent of their energy supply from renewable resources by 2026 instead of the old figure of 12.5 percent by 2027. Lawmakers also included a less ambitious energy efficiency target, with utilities now permitted to stop energy efficiency programs once they cut energy use by 17.5 percent from 2008 levels. Previously, the original target was a reduction in energy usage by 22 percent by 2027. Since most utilities have almost reached the 17.5 percent figure, this change effectively puts an end to further energy efficiency measures.