VOICES: ‘Worst energy bill of the 21st century’ has to go

NOTE from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: this opinion piece by Greg Smith appeared on the Dayton Daily News' Ideas and Voices page Wednesday, Aug. 5 2020.

Even before news broke that Ohio’s speaker of the house was arrested on an alleged bribery scheme to get House Bill 6 passed, we knew HB6 was not in the best interest of Ohioans.

HB6 bailed out two nuclear power plants, two coal power plants and gutted the state’s renewable energy and efficiency standards, which created hundreds of thousands of jobs for Ohioans while saving hundreds of millions of dollars for residents and business owners. When the bill Vox.com dubbed “the worst energy bill of the 21st century” passed the Ohio legislature last year, it left those of us in the clean energy industry upset and confused.

Lawmakers who supported HB6 claimed the bill would create jobs by doubling down on a dying industry and cutting off support to a growing one.

My Dayton-based energy efficiency company started in 2009 with just one worker, me. Now, we directly employ 23 people in our front office.

We employ engineers, MBAs, trained HVAC service technicians, electricians. In addition, we provide employment for more than 150 Ohio residents that are utilized to implement our projects, including electricians, mechanical and HVAC tradespeople, architects and engineers and various trades professionals in the construction field.

Clean energy is a dynamic industry in our state and across the Midwest. At the end of 2019 clean energy jobs were growing four times as fast as overall state employment. HB6 pulled the rug out from under Ohio’s thousands of clean energy workers.

The recently released Clean Jobs Midwest report shows that clean energy is employing many more people than coal and nuclear combined. At the end of 2019, there were over 114,000 clean energy jobs in Ohio compared to the 14,000 in coal and less than 2,000 jobs in the nuclear industry.

The vast majority of Ohio’s clean energy jobs in 2019 – some 83,000 - were in energy efficiency. These are good jobs.

They’re factory jobs manufacturing energy efficient appliances like dishwashers and dryers. They’re construction jobs for workers who improve the energy efficiency of our homes, schools and office buildings with better lighting, HVAC systems, insulation, windows and energy management technologies and controls.

One of the most satisfying parts of my job is completing projects at Ohio schools. From the elementary schools in Dayton to large technical colleges in Cincinnati, I’ve seen how updating interior and exterior lighting or installing highly efficient boilers saves institutions like these thousands of dollars on annual energy bills while providing an improved learning environment. We’ve saved Ohio school districts enough money to cover over 300 teacher salaries for an entire year through these projects associated with clean and efficient energy retrofits.

Ohio lawmakers: If we’re serious about creating jobs and building a better future for Ohio, clean energy is the place to start. We need forward-thinking clean energy policies that will save Ohioans money, create jobs while also protecting our environment.

It’s time to repeal HB6 and replace it with policies that will build our state’s economy for the long-haul, support the clean energy industry, and provide the needed market certainty for new businesses to set up shop and grow here in Ohio.

Greg Smith is the founder and President of Energy Optimizers U.S.A. and a member of the national, nonpartisan business group E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs).

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