Solar, Corrupt Utilities and Ohio State Representative Larry Householder
Even if you are not a solar policy wonk like me you are likely reading headlines about the $61 Million bribery and corruption scandal that is rocking Ohio politics. It turns out that the millions of plain old “legal” campaign contributions have not been sufficient for a dying monopoly to prop up its old, dirty and uneconomic power plants. We are learning more and more details of the web of corruption and secret deal making behind the passing of Ohio’s House Bill 6 in 2019. This was the bill described as “Worst Energy Bill of the 21st Century” that locked Ohio ratepayers into billions of dollars of subsidies to utilities while at the same time gutting our already watered-down support for energy efficiency and clean energy, both proven to save Ohioan’s money.
Last week’s headlines are just the beginning…
They mark the end of the covert phase of the investigation, and now begins the subpoenas, plea deals and testimony of the public phase. This is a really big deal and will rock Ohio politics and energy policy for years to come. We urge a complete repeal of HB 6 as well as a review of other important actions in the Householder era, including the appointment of a leading critic of clean energy to lead the PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio).
This is a big deal for solar
Ohio is the fifth largest electricity consumer in the country, and our state government’s apparent servitude to entrenched utilities is reversing potential progress despite the great potential benefits that a shift to clean energy would bring. In a different era we were focused on the future not the past. In 2008 Governor Ted Strickland signed SB 221, a bi-partisan effort to remove utility monopoly protections and modernize and diversify Ohio’s utility grid.
As Ohio has reversed course, other Midwestern states have continued moving toward clean energy in pursuit of multiple benefits: creation of installation jobs that cannot be off-shored, a diversified energy mix that offers grid resiliency and attracts companies that demand a clean energy mix, and finally the renaissance of manufacturing in this sector.
I think by this point you have figured out who “Goliath” is in this tale: the enormous entrenched utility industry (with profits extracted from Ohio going out of state and out of the country). The “David” in this still unfolding story is the rest of us: the thousands of customers that have invested in their own solar on homes and businesses, the thousands of solar companies such as Third Sun Solar and all of the families and local economies their payrolls support, the thousands of citizens being poisoned by air pollution of these ancient dirty power plants (primarily poor people and people of color in marginalized communities).
How will this story end?
Will David prevail? It is up to all of us to “be David” and demand justice and progress. Overturning HB6 is an initial step, but getting back on track toward clean energy in Ohio will take a lot more work and most importantly our demanding that our legislators work for us the voters rather than campaign donors (and bribers). Rise up and take your power back; let’s take down “Goliath” once and for all and set our state and world on a path to a clean and sustainable future.
Image courtesy of Ohio Citizen Action and the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.