Don’t make Ohio’s energy fumble

Ariana Gonzalez

The Michigan-Ohio State football rivalry is fierce and longstanding. Though the Buckeyes were crowned national champions last year in football, Ohio fumbled big time on energy. This year, Michigan has the chance to avoid that blunder.

Ohio made a bad call last spring when Gov. John Kasich and Ohio’s General Assembly froze the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. The move undeniably shackled the state’s clean energy economy. Now, more than a year later, Kasich has drastically changed his tune, calling a continued freeze “unacceptable.”

Why did Kasich have a change of heart? Because he’s witnessed firsthand that freezing Ohio’s energy standards has halted economic investment in renewable energy sources, and hurt businesses and families who rely on affordable and clean power.

Michigan is at a similar crossroads — only this time the standards won’t be frozen, they’ll be eliminated.

Bills pending in the House and Senate take a page from Ohio’s failed playbook by proposing to dismantle the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards that have saved Michiganders billions of dollars in efficiency investments alone.

The Michigan Public Service Commission’s most recent evaluation of the state’s energy standards found that the $1.1 billion invested from 2010 to 2014 in energy optimization programs will achieve lifetime savings of $4.2 billion. That’s across all customers whether they are participating in the programs or not.

More proof that clean energy is in line with, not in opposition to, a growing economy, is that the American Wind Energy Association just released a report showing that wind power supports 4,000 jobs in Michigan and has attracted $2.9 billion in capital investment to the state. With 33 factories supporting well-paying jobs throughout the state, we’re talking about in-state jobs for a growing in-state economy.

Opponents of clean energy standards try to scare people by raising the threat of uncertainty, but we should ignore the hecklers — it’s all just smoke and mirrors. Standards create certainty that the lights will stay on and businesses and consumers will save money. The proposed alternative, a muddled version of a utility planning process, will simply tether the state to expensive and inefficient systems.

It comes down to bills versus billions in Michigan. We can choose billions in savings from tried and true standards or an uncertain future that is failing in Ohio. The bottom line is this: Clean energy standards work for us. They save us money, they create jobs, and they provide certainty.

Don’t make Ohio’s mistake; keep Michigan’s clean energy standards.

Ariana Gonzalez is the energy policy analyst for Michigan at the Natural Resources Defense Council.