On March 31st, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed HB 128 into law, formally enacting a partial HB 6 repeal bill that eliminates certain provisions of the law but does nothing to revive statewide utility energy efficiency programs.
For context, Governor Dewine signed HB 6 into law in 2019, which ended Ohio’s Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) and is now tied to an alleged $60 million racketeering conspiracy that publicly emerged in 2020.
Among other changes, HB 6 authorized a monthly surcharge on all customer electric bills to subsidize two nuclear plants, raising $170 million a year between 2021 and 2027 and $20 million annually for existing solar projects. From 2020 to 2030, the bill also authorizes an additional surcharge on Ohio customers to support coal plants in the Ohio Valley Electric Cooperative (OVEC) located in Ohio and Indiana. As it stands, HB 128 primarily addresses the nuclear plant subsidies but fails to address the loss of an energy efficiency statutory framework in the state.
More specifically, HB 128 revises the law to remove the nuclear subsidy, decoupling mechanism and provisions that allowed FirstEnergy to combine its distribution utilities’ revenues for the Significantly Excessive Earnings Test (SEET). It also enables FirstEnergy to reimburse all revenues collected to date under the previous decoupling provision and the more favorable SEET provisions created under HB 6. FirstEnergy announced that it would refund $26 million to customers collected under HB 6 on March 31st, the same day HB 128 was signed into law. However, HB 128 left many clean energy advocates, businesses and trade associations in Ohio disappointed because it does not holistically address HB 6’s impacts on the clean energy economy.
Before HB 128 advanced through the Ohio legislature and to the Governor’s desk, there were many other proposals under debate, including several that would have entirely repealed HB 6 and fully restored the state EERS.
MEEA submitted testimony as an interested party in November of 2020 for a hearing on a bipartisan HB 6 full repeal bill (HB 346), highlighting the extensive benefits of energy efficiency in the state. Among other advantages, the EERS, prior to its removal via HB 6, enabled Ohio’s electricity customers to cumulatively save $7.06 billion between 2009 and 2019.
HB 128 fails to restore certainty to the many energy efficiency businesses operating or headquartered in Ohio and fails to address the immense loss of economic, environmental and health benefits previously enabled through the state’s EERS. MEEA will continue to track developments related to HB 6 and engage decisionmakers at state and local levels on the crucial value that energy efficiency provides to Ohioans. For more information or questions about Ohio and HB 6-related developments, please contact MEEA Policy Manager Reine Rambert at firstname.lastname@example.org.