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Citizen Martis to Ohio Lawmakers: Repeal the Renewable-Energy Mandate

[Ed. note: One of the most prolific citizen activists in the windpower-subsidy debate today is Kevon Martis, Director of the Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition. His testimony last week before the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, with slight modification, follows.]

Senator Seitz, Vice Chairman LaRose, Ranking Member Gentile and members of the Ohio Senate Public Utilities Committee, my name is Kevon Martis. I am the volunteer director of the Interstate Informed Citizen’s Coalition, Inc. of Blissfield, MI (IICC), a bipartisan renewable energy citizen’s advocacy group.

In my role as director of IICC, I speak on behalf of the hundreds of Ohio citizens who are living on the front lines of industrial wind development that has directly resulted from the very complicated, highly intrusive mandates of Senate Bill 221 of 2008, which revised

state energy policy to address electric service price regulation, establish alternative energy benchmarks for electric distribution utilities and electric services companies, provide for the use of renewable energy credits, establish energy efficiency standards for electric distribution utilities, require greenhouse gas emission reporting and carbon dioxide control planning for utility-owned generating facilities, authorize energy price risk management contracts, and authorize for natural gas utilities revenue decoupling related to energy conservation and efficiency.

I speak today January 22, 2014, in support of Senate Bill34:

To amend sections 4928.142, 4928.143, 4928.20, 4928.61, 4928.62, 5501.311, and 5727.75 and to repeal sections 4928.64 and 4928.65 of the Revised Code to repeal the requirement that electric distribution utilities and electric services companies provide 25% of their retail power supplies from advanced and renewable energy resources by 2025.

State-level renewable energy mandates like Senate Bill 221 were enacted at a time when natural gas was expensive and projected to climb. With “cap and trade” schemes looming on the federal horizon and non-emitting and fuel price stable nuclear forced to the back bench by green activists, there was apparent wisdom in leading a drive to advanced energy generation.

It is a far different story today. Formerly considered a “no brainer”, one-size-fits-all wind energy mandates are fast falling out of favor across the political spectrum.

Once the darling of the press, extension of the federal Production Tax Credit for wind was recently opposed by the editorial boards of the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post. Huffington Post is running articles that point out the ill effects of wind energy.

And in Ohio, traditionally left-leaning environmental groups like the American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory are threatening litigation against wind development near the Lake Erie shoreline.

And the economic calamity brought about by renewable energy mandates are even driving the European Union off the mandate bandwagon.

Further, the curtain of secrecy is being pulled back to reveal the dangerous nexus of ideologically driven PR groups like Sierra Club and federal regulatory entities like EPA.

Just last week it was discovered via FOIA requests that U.S. EPA and Sierra Club maintain a very cozy relationship. How cozy?

“Nancy Grantham, director of public affairs for EPA Region 1, which covers New England, asked an organizer for the Sierra Club’s New Hampshire chapter to share the group’s agenda so EPA could adjust its messaging accordingly ……. ‘[If] you could, it would [be] great if you can send me an email describing what you would like to do in early April in NH–that way I can coordinate messaging with our air offices here and at HQ.’”

Imagine: The US EPA adjusted their messaging to suit the needs of the Sierra Club.

The regulatory revolving door is in full spin. And a quick glance at the AWEA’s 2011 policy document reveals that they are likewise connected at the hip to Sierra, NRDC, OEC, etc. It also reveals that Republican legislators were targeted by the trade group. And AWEA was in large part successful in garnering those conservative legislators’ support for wind energy mandates.

What does this mean for us today?

Put bluntly, to support continuation of renewable energy mandates like SB221 is to play into the hands of Sierra Club, Natural Resource Defense Counsel, Ohio Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund, the Union of Concerned Scientists and their marketing partners the American Wind Energy Association as well as the US Environmental Protection Agency.

And the agenda of these groups could not be clearer. They wish to bring about the demise of 80% of Ohio’s generation portfolio: coal. And with coal goes the affordable-energy-dependent manufacturing jobs that have been the backbone of Ohio’s economy for generations.

Now let me be clear: I am no particular friend of gas, oil, coal, nuclear or the monopoly utilities.

But the fact remains: the stakeholders working against this RPS repeal measure have something much larger in mind than simply adding some wind generation to Ohio’s generation portfolio. I am not alone in this opinion. Exelon, the U.S.’s largest nuclear operators and a substantial wind developer is only the first major power generator to have peeked behind the AWEA/Sierra Club curtain and begun to oppose wind energy subsidies. It cost them their position on AWEA’s board of directors. One wonders if AEP can be far behind?

Now let me quickly enumerate a few points about why SB221 needs to be repealed:

1. If the purpose of SB221 was to replace coal generation it could hardly be a bigger failure. Six years after its adoption, Ohio still generates 80% of its electricity from coal, 10% from gas and the rest from nuclear. Despite nearly $750 million in wind development in Ohio, wind penetration remains below 1% or an annualized (and paltry) effective annual output of only 84MW (300MW installed wind capacity operating at 28% annual capacity factor).

This same sum spent on Combined Cycle Gas Generators would yield a capacity of 750MW or nearly nine times as much and could have significantly reduced CO2, Fine Particulate and Mercury emissions. The environmental benefit of the turbines in Paulding and Van Wert counties is essentially zero.

2. Ohio wind energy is very expensive relative to its Prairie States peers. Although Ohio does not publish the details of its wind energy Power Purchase Agreements, Michigan does. We know that Ohio’s wind resource is similar to Michigan’s–marginal. By extrapolation it is reasonable to conclude that OH wind-like Michigan- is costing well over $100/MWh to generate yet can save only the cost of some fossil fuel: $25-35/MWh of coal or gas. That is a bad deal for ratepayers. Worse, wind generation is sharply inverse to demand. This means that this already expensive energy is arriving on the grid when it is of least value.

3. Ohio wind, like Michigan wind, is anemic. As a result both states must construct “low wind resource” turbines. These turbines come with a pronounced price premium. Michigan’s published installed costs for wind turbines varies between $2,200 and 2,500/kw of nameplate capacity. Iowa’s latest installed cost is only $1,650.00/kw.

In a nutshell, it costs nearly 50% more per kw to build OH turbines that then harvest a wind resource with 50% less potential energy. Continuing an OH wind mandate is to mandate ever higher percentages of uncompetitive energy that typically arrives on the grid at the times of lowest value.

4. SB221’s instate generation mandate is an unconstitutional infringement upon your ratepayer’s constitutional right to unfettered interstate commerce. It is analogous to Michigan restricting the importation of Toledo-produced Jeep vehicles or Marysville-built Hondas.

5. Under pending EPA regulations Ohio may very well face a baseload generation shortage. Unfortunately wind and solar are not 1:1 replacements for baseload generators. Thus, if SB221 is not repealed, Ohio ratepayers could soon be faced with the prospect of having to push two shopping carts down the aisle at the same time: one to be filled with new gas fired generation to replace the dispatchable capacity of EPA induced coal plant closures and the other with wind and solar.

Unfortunately the fact that heavily subsidized wind and solar parasitize the revenue stream of gas-fired generation makes it much more difficult to recover the costs of constructing and operating those new plants. And when one understands that adding wind to combined cycle gas generation is nine times more expensive per ton of CO2 avoided compared to simply replacing coal with CCGT, everyone ( including those whose first priority is ever-cleaner and cooler air and water) must question the wisdom of this burden as well.

6. Finally, (I am choosing my words deliberately here) SB221 has created pandemonium and terror in Ohio’s rural communities. Lawsuits, conflicts of interest among elected and appointed officials, abandoned homes and devastated social relationships have become the grim reality inside Ohio’s proposed or operating wind plants. This is due to the disparity between those who host a turbine on their land with compensation and those whose land is being used as a safety and nuisance abatement zone without consent or compensation via appropriation by the State Power Siting Board.

Conclusion

In simple terms, mandating and subsidizing wind energy is like hiring one of my teenage sons to work in my construction business. They are seldom there when there is real work to be done. When they do show up they have a highly inflated opinion of their relative contribution to the task at hand. Nevertheless they demand to be paid far more than their adult coworkers for their juvenile efforts. And they then reward you by keeping you up all night with incessant and annoying noise that you are absolutely powerless to stop.

On the behalf of those who are needlessly bearing the burden of Ohio’s unconstitutional and ineffectual renewable energy mandate I wholeheartedly endorse SB34.

1 comment

1 Jerry Graf { 01.27.14 at 7:48 pm }

An excellent summary. Mr. Kevon Martis nails it on many levels here.

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