Republicans on the Senate & Public Utilities Committee this week warmed to the idea of repealing renewable energy requirements, but a new proposal to add waste heat technology to the standards appears to have more traction in the near term.
Sen. Bill Coley (R-Middletown) introduced a measure this week that would add cogeneration technology to the state’s renewable energy portfolio standards. And the House Public Utilities Committee has already scheduled a first hearing next week on a companion bill still to be introduced by Rep. Margaret Conditt (R-Liberty Twp.)
Sen. Coley, a member of the Senate Energy Committee, said lawmakers face a tight timetable to pass the proposal (SB289) to ensure that Air Products and Chemicals, Inc.’s $300 million cogeneration project at AK Steel’s Middletown Works plant become a reality.
“For Air Products to qualify for some federal credits and stuff that they need, this thing’s got to be up and operational within about two years, and in order to do that we got to get this bill done in about a month,” he said in a recent interview.
Last year Gov. John Kasich said he believed technology that uses waste heat or gases from industrial processes to generate electricity should be added to the alternative energy portfolio standards, which require 12.5% of the electricity consumed in Ohio to come from renewable sources by 2025.
Sen. Coley said he believed the governor’s office was supportive of his measure, but the impetus for the bill came from Air Products and AK. He expects the governor to propose more far-reaching energy proposals in the near future.
Cogeneration already qualifies under Ohio’s “advanced energy” standards, which require 12.5% of the state’s power to come from high-tech sources like nuclear and low-emissions coal technology. However, defining cogeneration as renewable will make the power it produces eligible for renewable energy credits, which utilities can purchase to comply with the standards.
Wind and solar energy developers have opposed proposals to expand the renewable energy portfolio, saying it would displace demand for their truly green technology.
However, Sen. Coley said he hasn’t heard of any opposition from environmentalists and argued that cogeneration relies on the same principal as wind and solar by harnessing energy that already exists.
“We get energy coming down from the sun every day that we lay out panels to collect, we get energy in the form of wind that we put blades up to collect, and we’ve got energy pouring out of blast furnaces just being emptied out into the ether,” he said.
“It’s a renewable resource. Every time blast furnaces are running, the same as when the wind’s blowing, we can capture energy from it,” he said.
Furthermore, cogeneration doesn’t increase carbon dioxide emissions that lead to climate change and could even reduce the amount of other kinds of pollutants being released into the atmosphere, he said.
Sen. Coley noted Democratic Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Youngstown was a joint co-sponsor and said he expects the bill will move quickly with bipartisan support.
The Republican said he also likes a separate proposal (SB216) from Sen. Chris Jordan (R-Delaware) to eliminate renewable energy requirements entirely, but he acknowledged that it was less likely to get many votes from Democrats.