An update on Ohio energy bills SB 275 and HB 197 

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McDonald Hopkins has provided a number of recent updates on Ohio lawmakers' legislative efforts to revamp the state's energy and solar policies, in particular House Bill 197 and Senate Bill 275. This week, both Bills were scheduled to be heard in Committee with a possible vote on HB 197.

On Tuesday, SB 275 had its second hearing in the Senate Energy Committee. Proponent testimony was provided by Tom Bullock of the Citizen Utility Board of Ohio, Cliff Wood of Prairie Wind Group, and Kurt Princic of CEP Renewables. The Committee Chair limited the number of proponent witnesses to three because of the busy calendar before the summer break.

The group did a great job describing how SB 275 would result in new OH electric generation by allowing virtual net metering.  The projects would be limited to brownfields and other distressed property – no farmland.  The Bill could open the door to hundreds of millions of dollar of private sector capital into challenged property across Ohio. 

Another priority for the group was to further describe to the Committee the potential grid stress or blackouts that are projected for the upcoming years due to expanding demand and the retirement of coal plants. The witnesses stated that SB 275 addresses grid stress in the short term by allowing more generation to access the distribution grid (DG – Distributed Generation). The DG that SB 275 permits is virtual commercial net metering only on distressed property, excluding farmland. Because the financial structure is the same as current law for commercial net metering, it does not present the same cost-shifting issues that community solar has faced (see HB 197 discussion below). DG is one of the only ways to address grid stress in the short term (1-5 years), as larger transmission-level projects take over 5 years to permit through PJM. 

Click here to view testimony from CEP Renewables.

Click here to view testimony from the Citizen Utility Board of Ohio.

Click here to view testimony from Prairie Wind Group.

After the hearing, individual meetings were held with four of the Senators on the Committee.  The feedback was positive and proponents were encouraged to continue the work over summer recess.

On Wednesday the 26th, HB 197 (community solar initiative) was to have its 8th hearing in the House Public Utilities Committee. The goal of this hearing was to address the aggressive opposition from Public Utilities based on alleged cost-shifting of the projects' costs onto non-participating customers.  An Amendment was to be offered that would limit the amount of unsubscribed energy the utilities would be required to purchase.  The limit would be up to 2 % of the total project output. You can view a copy of the Amendment here. Unfortunately, due to strong utility lobbying and the lack of sufficient votes to pass the Bill out of Committee, the hearing was cancelled. 

Grid stress will need to be addressed in Ohio.  There may be an opportunity to pass legislation in the lame duck session at the end of this year.  If not, these Bills will be reintroduced early in 2025 and their concepts could be included in the OH Budget discussions in the first half of 2025. 

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