Report: Ohio's Clean Energy Future

Ohio’s Clean Energy Report Card, Year 2

Wind, Solar, and Energy Efficiency on the Rise
Released by: Environment Ohio Research and Policy Center

Executive Summary

In 2009, Ohio received 84 percent of its electricity from coal, the dirtiest fuel used to generate electricity. Over the last few years, however, Ohio has begun to develop alternatives to reduce our reliance on coal and other fossil fuels, cutting air pollution and reducing the state’s contribution to global warming.

Ohio’s Clean Energy Law, passed in 2008 to promote the development of homegrown alternatives to fossil fuels, has now been in effect for more than three years. In that time, the state has taken important strides toward a clean energy future, including the development of several major renewable energy facilities.

Between January 2009, when the law took effect, and January 2011, Ohio’s four largest utilities implemented energy efficiency programs that will save 1.6 million megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity annually, enough electricity to power 141,000 homes. After a burst of renewable energy construction triggered by the new law, Ohio’s wind and solar facilities are now providing as much power as 29,000 homes use in a year.  

Clean Energy Law has started Ohio on the road to a new energy future—one in which dirty and harmful energy sources are replaced with homegrown energy used efficiently—at great benefit to public health and the environment. Still, Ohioans will only receive the full benefits of the law if the state’s major utilities commit to taking full advantage of renewable energy and energy efficiency opportunities. Several utilities have moved quickly to embrace clean energy, while others are lagging behind and will need to improve their efforts in future years.

Ohio is moving quickly to adopt clean energy.

  • Since 2009, two major solar energy facilities have opened in Ohio, and a third will begin construction in 2012. The largest currently operating facility is a 12 MW facility in the town of Wyandot.
  • In 2011, a 99 megawatt (MW) wind farm, the state’s largest, opened in Paulding County. The wind farm was built after American Electric Power signed a long-term contract to purchase electricity from its developer in order to meet their Clean Energy Law targets for renewable energy generation.
  • Utility-funded energy efficiency programs carried out under Ohio’s Clean Energy Law in 2009 and 2010 have reduced electricity consumption by 1.6 million megawatt-hours (MWh). Peak demand at those utilities has declined by over 1.7 GW—equivalent to the capacity of three mid-sized coal plants.
  • Ohio now has a total of 17 MW of solar panels in operation and 102 MW of wind turbines—enough to generate as much power as 19,800 average homes use in a year.

While several of Ohio’s utilities have forged ahead with clean energy programs, others are dragging their heels, as reflected by the grades issued on our scorecard for their 2010 performance.

  • American Electric Power received an A for significantly exceeding its energy efficiency target and leading the way on renewable energy by signing contracts to support the construction of Ohio’s largest solar facility and largest wind farm.
  • Dayton Power & Light received an A for exceeding its energy efficiency targets and meeting its renewable energy targets, in part by developing the only major utility-owned solar facility in the state.
  • Duke Energy received a C-; the utility has been the strongest performer in developing energy efficiency as a resource, but has failed to meet its renewable energy targets, instead applying repeatedly to the Public Utilities Commission to lower its target.
  • First Energy received a D-. Ohio’s largest utility has underperformed for several years, failing to obtain as much solar energy as the law calls for or to develop effective energy efficiency programs.

Ohio has only begun to tap its potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy.

  • The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) estimates that Ohio could reduce its energy consumption by 33 percent by 2025 through cost-effective efficiency measures.
  • Energy efficiency is the lowest-cost energy resource available to Ohio.
  • Ambitious energy efficiency efforts have been shown to deliver greater benefits at lower costs to consumers than more modest efforts.
  • Ohio has the potential to generate 288,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity from wind turbines throughout the state and in Lake Erie, and 34,000 GWh from solar energy. Combined, Ohio’s solar and wind resource could generate almost six times as much power annually as is consumed by all the state’s homes.

Public officials should ensure that Ohio achieves its potential for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

  • The Public Utilities Commission should hold utilities accountable for hitting their requirements under the Clean Energy Law. After issuing waivers to utilities that fell short of their goals in 2009, the PUC needs hold utilities to the requirements of the law by enforcing fines on utilities that did not meet their targets in 2010.
  • Ohio should expand and strengthen its renewable energy and energy efficiency policies to match policies adopted by leading states. 
  • Ohio should adopt a suite of clean energy policies to support the Clean Energy Law, enabling low-cost financing for clean energy projects and strengthening the state’s building energy codes.