Environmental, conservative groups among backers of Ohio utility reform

Advocates for industry, consumer and environmental groups expressed strong support for a bill to reform state utility law at a hearing before the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee this week. House Bill 247 would end the current practice of Electric Security Plans, which allow a variety of nonbypassable charges, regardless of whom customers choose to buy electricity from. The bill would also prohibit utilities from owning electric generation facilities. And it would require refunds if utility charges were later found to have been unlawful or unreasonable. “With more Boomers headed to retirement, and on a fixed income, we must keep utility bills in check,” AARP Ohio’s Trey Addison told lawmakers on November 28.

Solar tariffs could slow growth in Ohio, but one company sees upside

A federal tariff case that could raise the cost of most new solar panels is already casting a shadow on parts of Ohio’s solar energy industry — but could also create new opportunities for one of the state’s manufacturers. The case before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) could result in a tariff on imports of crystalline silicon solar cells. If adopted, it “would cut new projected solar projects by two-thirds,” reported Dan Whitten of the Solar Energy Industry Association at the Society of Environmental Journalists’ annual conference earlier this month. Melink Corporation in Cincinnati is already seeing impacts in the form of “increased module prices in anticipation that the tariff will get passed,” said company founder and CEO Steve Melink. “So manufacturers are adjusting prices.”

“The uncertainty is messing it up a bit,” said Dovetail Solar & Wind President Al Frasz in Cleveland.