The Ohio Senate's recent decision to put renewable energy and efficiency mandates on hold for two years pending study is not unreasonable, but we hope that action isn't a first step toward scrapping them entirely.
The mandates were approved in 2008 during the Strickland administration at a time when energy costs were rising. The measure required power companies to generate a certain percentage of their energy from renewable sources or efficiency initiatives. Utilities can pass the costs of meeting those standards onto their customers.
Since then, however, the energy picture in Ohio has changed a great deal. Costs have declined and oil and gas activity has increased with the boom in fracking.
Senate Bill 310 would freeze renewable energy and efficiency benchmarks for the next two years and create a 13-member study committee that would have to offer recommendations for future energy-related law changes by September 2015. The Senate will reconsider the energy mandates in the light of those recommendations.
"We are not eliminating these benchmarks, we're simply freezing them for a period of time, two years, to allow us the opportunity to settle in and understand the change in the marketplace, to understand the impacts these mandates are having on businesses and rate-payers," said Sen. Shannon Jones of Springboro.
Reconsidering the benchmarks and their impact seems like a sensible course of action. Keeping the mandates in place at levels set in 2008 could drive up costs for businesses and consumers and put Ohio manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage. Examining whether they are, indeed, having the intended effect of lowering energy use and prompting growth and innovation in related industries is a good idea.
Encouraging the development of renewable energy alternatives as well as energy efficiency is a commendable goal that will benefit Ohioans in the long run. Putting the mandates on hold for a brief period to take stock of what they are accomplishing and to determine a future course of action is a wise move.