Some utilities lead while others lag.
Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center
Cleveland, OH—Ohio is reaping the benefits of clean energy, according to a new report by Environment Ohio, Ohio’s Clean Energy Report Card: How wind, solar, and energy efficiency are repowering the Buckeye State. Two years into the implementation of the state’s Clean Energy Law, which sets standards for both renewable energy and energy efficiency, Ohio is saving enough electricity each year to power 43,000 homes, among other significant benefits.
Ohio is heavily dependent on coal for its electricity, a major factor making the state among the nation’s top contributors to soot, mercury, and global warming pollution. However, according to the report, Ohio has enough potential resources between wind, solar, and energy efficiency to provide more than enough energy to provide the Buckeye state’s electricity demand.
Through a solar-specific provision, the law has helped boost a burgeoning solar industry. “Ohio’s Clean Energy Law provides a guaranteed solar market that provides critical certainty for our growing business,” said Al Frasz, vice president of Dovetail Wind & Solar, one of the state’s largest installers of solar panels. “Thanks to the law, we know that there will always be a buyer for solar power and that makes us confident about hiring more workers.”
However, Ohio utilities vary greatly in their performance in meeting the requirements of the Clean Energy Law. While most of the state’s investor-owned utilities have made significant progress, the state’s largest utility—FirstEnergy—has fallen far short, most significantly in the categories of energy efficiency and solar power. Environment Ohio issued the following grades to the utilities:
• Duke Energy performed best, receiving an A and scoring 15.5 out of 16 points. Duke led all Ohio utilities in its commitment to solar energy, and saved large amounts of electricity by helping its customers purchase efficient products.
• Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) also scored well, receiving an A for its score of 15 out of 16 points.
• American Electric Power (AEP) met its efficiency and overall renewable goals, but fell well short of its solar goal, and received a B for its score of 13.5 out of 16. AEP has since taken significant steps to remedy its solar shortfall for 2010 by purchasing solar from the Wyandot solar facility, a new generating facility in Upper Sandusky Township. AEP has also led the way in making long-term deals to purchase renewable power.
• FirstEnergy scored worst, meeting only a small fraction of its energy efficiency goal and its solar goal. FirstEnergy received an F for its score of 8.5 out of 16 points.
Environment Ohio called on FirstEnergy to step up its commitment to energy efficiency, and noted that in recent weeks the company had made encouraging steps toward investing in renewable energy, signing major deals with wind and solar facilities.
“It’s absolutely not too late for FirstEnergy to turn the corner on clean energy. They made big investments in wind and solar in the last month, and we’re waiting on the same for energy efficiency,” Boggs said, noting the value of pairing energy efficiency with renewable energy. “When done right, our Clean Energy Law packs a one-two punch that offsets the cost of cleaner power with energy efficiency that actually saves consumers money.”
Eugene Norris of Cleveland Housing Network hopes to build on the success of early efficiency programs that his organization has worked on with FirstEnergy. “We’ve seen savings rise and pollution plummet from efficiency programs with FirstEnergy. Done on a larger scale, this would be a huge boon for families all over Northern Ohio.”
Boggs pointed to AEP as an example of a utility that has made up for lost ground. That company, which earned a ‘B’ for its lack of investment in solar in 2009, has since become a leader in solar and energy efficiency.
The report highlighted the Wyandot Solar Farm near Sandusky, the Midwest’s largest solar facility, which generates enough electricity to power 1,400 Ohio homes. The farm was made possible by an agreement by AEP to buy power from the farm for 20 years as part of its plan to meet Ohio’s Clean Energy Law.
The report notes that while Ohio’s current law has given the state a leg up on clean energy, state policymakers shouldn’t squander our advantage. Ohio’s clean energy grant program expired in December, causing installers like Frasz of Dovetail Wind and Solar to look for work in neighboring states such as Indiana and Pennsylvania, which still offer support for clean energy.
Ultimately, said Boggs, legislators should consider strengthening the standards. “Leading states have solar standards that are 6 times as strong as Ohio’s. To lead in the clean energy race and win the solar jobs of the future, we need to be raising the bar, not struggling to clear it.”