MEEA’s mission to support and advance energy efficiency across the Midwest typically takes shape as promoting supportive policies and the positive impact of EE like new jobs, energy savings, economic impacts and environmental benefits. From time to time, though, the Midwest experiences challenges to energy efficiency. New polices in Ohio have become the greatest barrier to energy efficiency in the Midwest right now, essentially ending all EE programs on December 31, 2020. How did we get here when energy efficiency has continuously been recognized for both economic and environmental benefits?
MEEA’s policy team has spent 2019 traveling throughout the Midwest to meet with state legislators, regulators and policymakers. MEEA serves as the region’s trusted source on energy efficiency and promotes how states can maximize energy savings pursuant to their specific policies. We share regional best practices and research with governors’ administrations, legislators and regulatory bodies as they develop energy plans, policy priorities or other state and local policy initiatives. The 2018 state election results presented ample opportunity for MEEA to act as a positive, nonpartisan voice for energy efficiency.
After an extensive four-month debate, on July 23, 2019, the Ohio General Assembly passed H.B. 6, a nuclear subsidy bill which will essentially eliminate energy efficiency programs in the state. Governor DeWine signed the bill into law the same day.
With the conclusion of the 132nd General Assembly Session on December 31, 2018, a bill to significantly curtail Ohio’s energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) officially died, leaving the state’s clean energy economy preserved. This was a victory for Ohio’s many clean energy jobs, its economy, customers’ energy bills and the environment.
But the path to victory was not easy, and a diverse set of stakeholders, including MEEA, spent two years working with policymakers to ensure they understood the benefits of energy efficiency and the potential costs of passing H.B. 114.
The 2018 midterm elections brought significant voter participation, with turnout breaking levels not seen since the 1960s. Nationally, this enthusiasm shifted power in the U.S. House of Representatives back to the Democrats, while Republicans increased their control of the U.S. Senate. A total of nine House seats in the Midwest flipped to Democratic-control—in addition to two seats in Minnesota changing from Democratic to Republican.
Industrial energy efficiency is losing ground in the Midwest. Though it’s one of the most cost-effective energy efficiency measures, states are increasingly allowing industrial customers to opt-out of paying into energy efficiency programs or exempting them from doing so altogether. As a result, overall energy savings and the cost-effectiveness of EE programs are on the edge of decline.
As a membership organization that includes utilities, businesses, advocates and government agencies, MEEA knows the power of collaboration. Time and again, we’ve seen first-hand that when diverse groups sit down at the table together, we’re able to harness our collective expertise and experience to find solutions that work for everyone.
And we’re not the only ones who think collaboration is a powerful tool. Several states in the Midwest currently convene collaborative groups to promote energy efficiency.
For the last century, utilities that provided safe, reliable and affordable service could be reasonably assured of their continued profitability as long as the demand for electricity continued climbing and competing outside pressures were minimized. However, in recent years, the model of hitching profits to increased infrastructure investment and greater sales is proving unsustainable in the long-term. Distributed energy resources and improved efficiency technologies are displacing increasing parts of the utility service, taking some of the revenues that go with it.