Ohio’s Billion Dollar Nuclear Bailout Comes at the Expense of Renewables

Image: Greentech Media

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that “Ohio has become the next state to bail out its nuclear plants with fees on ratepayers’ electric bills. On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine signed the controversial House Bill 6, which will add new fees to Ohioans’ electric bills for two nuclear plants owned by the bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions in northern Ohio.” This will happen at the same time that the state will slash existing efficiency and renewable energy mandates. While DeWine has claimed that the legislation will save jobs and costs for ratepayers, many aren’t convinced that’s the real motive. The Plain Dealer recently investigated the fact that while FirstEnergy claims that its nuclear plants are losing money and need a public bailout, it won’t actually reveal its financial data to back up this claim to Ohio taxpayers. 

A Strong Opposition: A recent poll done by API Ohio of registered Ohio voters found that 70% of voters oppose the bill. Additionally, HB 6 is facing widespread opposition from environmental groups and renewable energy advocates. As Greentech Media explained, “opponents say it’s a backhanded way to accomplish a longstanding goal of state Republicans to undo the state’s efficiency and renewables mandates, and that it will increase power costs and pollution compared to investing in cleaner alternatives.

The Plan: Starting in 2021, Ohio residential ratepayers will see their energy bills go up to help offset the cost of the FirstEnergy nuclear plants. The Cincinnati Enquirer explained that the bill would also guarantee that utilities can charge customers up to $1.50 a month for two coal plants operated by Piketon-based Ohio Valley Electric Corporation until 2030. That fee is already on most customers’ bills right now. To pay for those new or recurring fees, Ohio lawmakers slashed renewable energy requirements – eliminating them after the end of 2026 and lowering the percentage of energy that must come from those sources before then – and effectively ended energy efficiency mandates after 2020. 

Why This Matters: Ohio residents are being asked to bail out aging nuclear plants at the cost of developing clean, renewable energy in their state and the jobs that come along with it. Ohio actually has immense capacity for wind energy but since the state has some of the most restrictive wind turbine rules of anywhere in the United States, the wind industry is being strangled in the state. Opponents of renewable energy claim that it can’t compete without subsidies but that’s not the reality as all of our other energy sources are subsidized yet they aren’t sustainable. Existing nuclear reactors haven’t been able to compete on price with natural gas and renewables for quite some time and certainly aren’t creating new jobs. If we’re going to get serious about fighting climate change, we have to double down on clean energy resources that are thriving and stop throwing good money at those that can’t compete.

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