Supporters Hope Energy Efficiency Bill Headed For Floor Vote

From: Ohio's Home For Policy & Politics (


Ten months after it advanced from a House committee, a long-stalled, bipartisan energy efficiency measure may be getting new life.
House leaders are whipping votes for the committee-reported plan (HB 79) to clarify utilities' ability to launch energy efficiency programs, teeing up its potential inclusion in an upcoming House session calendar as early as Wednesday.

But a floor vote is far from certain as some skepticism within the Republican caucus remains.

The calendar for Wednesday's upcoming voting session is not expected to be finalized until a House Rules & Reference Committee meeting Tuesday, but several Republicans said in interviews they believe HB79 could land among bills eyed for consideration if the plan whips favorably.

"I've had a couple members call, reaching out to understand some of the details of the bill," said Rep. Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), a cosponsor and chair of the House Public Utilities Committee, which vetted the bill.

"I do know the whips are whipping the vote," he said. "I have not heard where we're at on that yet. Obviously, some members support it and some less so."

The bill from Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Green Twp.) and Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Westlake) enables utilities to deploy voluntary energy efficiency programs under the oversight of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. (Analysis)

Utilities, which have backed the plan, could seek PUCO authorization for programs to achieve at least gross annual savings of 0.5% of prior year's electric sales with no more than 30% achieved through residential programs.

Authorizing such plans has long been a goal of supporters following a 2019 energy law (HB 6 of 2019) that eliminated the state's energy efficiency standards.

The bill advanced from Stein's committee 14-3 in June after six hearings but has seen no movement since. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, June 21, 2023)

"I have heard that it's moving," said Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), the committee's ranking member, who labeled potential passage as "one of the first positive steps that we've taken since HB6" in energy policy.

"I'm definitely still supportive of it," Weinstein said. "I think the majority of our caucus is too."

Not all are convinced, however.

Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) said he still harbors the same concerns he repeatedly broached during the committee's debate, such as that the included cost caps are insufficient. Costs are capped at $1.50 per month for residential customers and $7.50 per month for nonresidential retail customers. "The purpose of this bill is to guide the heavy hand of PUCO," Wiggam said, calling it "outrageous."

In addition to questioning the need for the bill – arguing that such programs can currently be offered – Wiggam questioned language requiring utility plans to include a mechanism to recover lost distribution revenue. "We want to put another rider on the people in the program so they can pay for the lost distribution revenue that we would have made," Wiggam said. "It's just such a boondoggle. It's so bad."

The bill marked a rare occasion in which utility companies – including AEP Ohio and AES Ohio – environmental groups and other stakeholders came together to jointly lobby for passage.
"We think this is a good compromise bill," said Nolan Rutschilling, managing director of energy policy for the Ohio Environmental Council. "It's bipartisan. Ohio has had an energy efficiency program since 2009 until House Bill 6 effectively eliminated them and we think this is bringing back a more conservative version of our energy efficiency programs and a version that allows folks to opt out."

Rutschilling said the OEC is sending out a scorecard on the bill to lawmakers Monday. And other supporters are circulating a February analysis from the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance suggesting that had programs nixed by HB6 been allowed to continue, customers would have saved 5.4 million megawatt-hours of electricity over the past three years.
But support has not been unanimous, with the Ohio Consumers' Counsel and the Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition voicing concerns over costs and whether the plan would favor utilities over consumers.

House passage, should it occur, would mark the farthest the proposal has advanced; its predecessor (HB 389 of 2021) cleared the same committee before languishing over 13 months due to a lack of GOP support. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, November 17, 2022)