Tuesday, February 26, 2008

RPS Now... or the Buckeyes Win

We can't have that, can we?

No. Of course not. Don't be silly. But that is exactly what is going to happen if we don't get moving on this issue. You see, in Ohio, it's the Republicans who are pushing for a strong renewable portfolio standard. They also this get this tied up in utility regulation, and that might slow them down a bit, but still...

Husted and top GOP House leaders were planning to unveil new legislation today that rewrites -- and beefs up -- renewable energy provisions in the governor's comprehensive utility regulation bill, pending since last fall.

The new bill will be sponsored by State Rep. Jim McGregor, a Republican from Gahanna, who earlier introduced a bill requiring utilities to generate 22 percent of their power with wind, solar and other renewable technologies by 2020. They would have had to pay heavy fines if they did not meet a strict time table. The measure stalled, but parts of it are now expected to resurface.

Ohio has the same sort of manufacturing base that we do - and they are targeting the manufacturing and R & D jobs in alternative energy, just like we are. Mark Barbash, chief economic-development officer for the Ohio Department of Development, told the Columbus Dispatch that the state is courting "courting six foreign companies interested in opening manufacturing operations or research and development centers", and he cited a report by the American Solar Energy Society that the number of renewable energy jobs in Ohio could grow to 174,000 by the year 2030.

The big emphasis, he said, is on wind energy.

"We look particularly at wind as an incredible opportunity for 'green-collar' jobs," he said. "The state's business infrastructure is absolutely attuned to wind. Making wind turbines is kind of (like) bending metal."

That kind of work is still common in Ohio, despite manufacturing's struggles. Gov. Ted Strickland's administration wants to spur existing manufacturers to build components used to generate alternative energy.

The story goes on to give the manufacturing example of Minster Machining, a company similar to our Dowding Industries or K & M Machining, that is looking at making parts for wind turbines. Barbash also points out "state's chances of adding renewable-energy jobs will improve if Strickland's proposed advanced-energy portfolio standard becomes law", which is the same thing that every one else has said in every story that you read on RPS.

Ohio is right on our heels and poised to take those manufacturing jobs if they get out of the gate faster than we do. And this weekend, Governor Granholm gave a scary quote along those lines during a reporter roundtable at the NGA meeting. MIRS reports-

"Policy making is such a slog sometimes," said Granholm. "We've got to have people understand that every day we wait, job providers are going somewhere else. We just lost one, as a matter of fact. A turbine company took us off their list because we don't have a renewable portfolio standard."

At one point during her press roundtable, Granholm said that if a complete energy passage doesn't begin moving soon, she would encourage legislators to just move the renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) piece. The RPS she suggests, is the minimum admission fee to the renewable energy investment game.

Let's do that. Split this from PA 141. Now. Over the flip, see why... and yes, Bruce Patterson comes into play once again.

Tom Walsh at the Freep caught up with Patterson to talk about the bills before his Senate Energy and Technology Committee, and it sounds like Bruce is relishing his role as "The Decider". It also sounds like he is going to take his sweet time in making any decisions on this, and time is something that we really don't have the luxury of wasting. He talks of changes to the bills, which would slow down the process even further...

"I like to incentivize behavior rather than have mandates," he said, expressing concern that mandates could lead to higher electric rates. But he was already musing about a possible compromise. "Maybe," he said, "instead of requiring that a certain percentage of capacity be from renewables, we could have it be a percentage of actual average peak demand, which is a much lower number."

At present, Patterson said, there appears to be more consensus around a need for RPS than for the changes in PA 141 sought by the big utilities.

"It's very complex stuff, affecting consumers, auto companies, construction jobs, you name it," he said.

Yes it is complex, but the thought that and RPS would lead to higher electric rates is just another Republican talking point and an excuse for obstruction. As we have pointed out before, a study on RPS policy in the states that have already implemented certain renewable standards shows that any cost increase is modest at best, and they may even decrease costs in the long run.

With a few exceptions, the long-term rate impacts of state RPS policies are projected to be relatively modest. Only two of the 28 state RPS cost studies in our sample predict rate increases of greater than 5%, and 19 of the studies project rate increases of no greater than 1% (and six of these studies predict rate decreases). The median residential electric bill impact is +$0.38 per month. When combined with possible natural gas price reductions and corresponding gas bill savings, the overall cost impacts are even more modest, resulting in net consumer savings in at least one additional case.

Michigan Republicans need to stop using that as an excuse and get moving on this before other states eat our lunch for us. Or, perhaps it will be just like the Single Business Tax; they canned it as an election year gimmick, and that move cost us jobs and investment as they waited until almost a year had passed until it was replaced.

It would be a shame if Republicans continued to cost us jobs and money just so they could obstruct progress in an election year, wouldn't it?

The Buckeyes would probably be happy though.