The initial comment period is now closed on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s (PUCO) draft rules for implementation of the Alternative and Renewable Energy Requirements. The PUCO received hundreds of pages of comments from a wide variety of perspectives: Utilities, Renewable Energy Developers, Industrial Customers, Environmental Groups, Clean Coal Technology Providers, and Consumer Groups.
The rules were set in motion by passage of Ohio’s comprehensive Energy Legislation (SB 221) which includes provisions designed to promote alternative and renewable energy development. The legislation includes both an Advanced Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) and a more traditional Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS).
While the Legislation was very complex, major policy issues were left to be sort out through rule promulgated by the PUCO. The comments received on the first draft of the rules for implementation of the AEPS and RPS reveal significant differences of opinion over critical issues.
Here is my critical issue list. The rules must address squarely these issues to determine the direction of Ohio’s energy policy.
- What are "advanced energy" resources and projects and how best to promote it? For example, right now the rules contain no standards for what qualifies as clean coal. Comments I submitted pointed out that a simple reduction of a few pounds from a 500 mw source that emits a 1,000 tons of pollution could still be considered a "clean coal" source. Worse yet, the entire generation could qualify toward meeting the AEPS. Without modification the AEPS could be rendered effectively meaningless.
- Double counting environmental attributes- It appears from the comments that Ohio doesn’t recognize this debate has been going on nationally for some time. Many of the 26 or so states that have had RPS standards have been sorting this type of issue out. The standard practice emerging nationally is not to allow CO2 emission reduction credits to be separated from a Renewable Energy Credit (REC). Allowing otherwise distorts the voluntary CO2 and REC markets.
- How much teeth does the RPS have? Many comments were submitted that the rules would grant the PUCO too much discretion to waive compliance with the RPS standard based upon a "act of god" (force majeure). Also, SB 221 allowed compliance with RPS benchmarks to be waived if electric rates rise as a result of the RPS by more than 3%. But how you measure the 3% increase is critical to determining whether there truly will be a RPS requirement in Ohio. It seems the rules have to answer the question-are we serious about having an RPS standard in Ohio?
(a summary of the major comments on the AEPS and RPS by clicking on "continue reading" below)
(photo: Kevin Dooley/everystockphoto.com)