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Why Renewables Must be Proactive in Countering Legislative Opposition

maiorino, al, public strategy groupThe state of renewable power in America is the best it has ever been, or so we think. In actuality, the adolescent industry is under constant threat from opposing legislators. In more than a dozen states legislators seek to do away with recently passed Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) laws. These laws require the use of renewable power sources by a state’s electricity provider and are huge incentives for power providers to pursue clean tech. However, since the RPS laws have been added to the books, there have been thirty proposed bills in seventeen different states that aim to eliminate them. Now, when individual renewable projects are finally getting the chance to come to fruition, they are suddenly encountering legislative opposition that threatens their success. This pattern of legislative behavior demonstrates to the renewables industry that public affairs is about more than preparing for a groundbreaking; if projects are to succeed they must be accompanied by multiphase campaigns that remain active into and beyond the completion stage to build and maintain public and legislative support.

Look no further than the state of Ohio as a demonstration of why organized grassroots support must be an ongoing process. A bill that signals the vulnerability of the state’s renewable industry is currently awaiting Ohio Governor John Kasich’s signature. This bill, SB 310, freezes the state’s requirements for power providers to generate electricity from renewable resources for two years. This means that if the bill is passed, investment in the state’s renewable projects could cease. To date those investments are worth an estimated $1.2 billion. The writing on the wall is clear; the next logical step for clean energy opponents is to seek an overall disengagement from any sort of standard pertaining to renewable production requirements in Ohio.

This circumstance is a shame for the average Ohioan. With the clean standards facing defeat, the providers will lose incentive to utilize existing infrastructure and to proceed with planned further investment. According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are another ten planned projects worth an estimated $2.5 billion that could rethink pursuing business in the state. Overall, with these standards passed, Ohio could be left out completely from the US renewables market, which by recent figures is valued to be worth around $36 billion.

To date, SB 310 has passed the state Senate and House of Representatives. Governor John Kasich’s signature is all SB 310 needs to become a law, and the governor has stated his intention to sign. From here, the future is uncertain for Ohio renewables. It did not have to be this way; if supporters of renewable energy had been mobilized sooner they could have made sure their disapproval of SB 310 was heard.

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