Most states have long-term renewable energy and energy efficiency targets. Ohio’s energy efficiency resource standard saves over 700,000 kilowatt-hours of energy annually, more than the energy generated by a new fossil fuel power plant. Ohio’s energy efficiency law is under attack, even though Ohio’s targets are right in the middle compared to other states’ targets.
Ironically, the consumers who pay for energy efficiency are not leading this attack. Rather, the attack comes from certain electric utilities and the advocacy groups they support: the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Heartland Institute. The utilities claim to be protecting consumers from the costs of the energy efficiency programs, but they really want to protect their own electricity sales.
One argument raised against energy efficiency programs is that they cost too much. Energy programs, however, must pass a cost/benefit test. The programs will be offered only if the value of energy savings exceeds the program costs. In many cases, the energy savings are two or three times greater than the program costs.
Another argument is that all consumers pay for the programs, but only those who use the programs benefit. A few large Ohio industrial companies have raised this argument. But these companies develop their own energy efficiency programs, so they don’t pay for utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs.
Recent filings by the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (representing Ohio’s residential consumers), the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (representing over 1,300 Ohio manufacturing companies) and the Council of Smaller Enterprises (representing 14,000 small businesses in northeast Ohio) reject this argument. Their members who participate in energy efficiency programs benefit directly by using less energy. Even those members who don’t use energy efficiency programs benefit through lower wholesale energy costs and by delaying the need for costly transmission and distribution system upgrades.
The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association notes that , through 2020, Ohio’s energy efficiency standards should yield $5.6 billion in savings, more than double the $2.7 billion program cost. The program will create up to 54,000 new jobs during this period. If “the customer is always right,” lawmakers will take heed and keep Ohio’s energy efficiency standards intact.