Mike Hartley: Ohio Conservatives Value Renewable Energy

The following Op-Ed appeared in The Columbus Dispatch on Monday, February 5, 2018.

Job creation. Economic growth. Property rights. These priorities have long been at the heart of conservative policymaking because they enrich our communities with opportunity and help individuals and families pursue the American dream on their own terms. Right now, Ohio has an opportunity to advance and defend these conservative ideals by embracing sound, forward-looking clean-energy policy.

That means maintaining current standards for energy efficiency and renewable-power generation and removing the regulatory barriers blocking landowners who want to develop wind power on their property. And the good news that Republican leaders in Columbus need to hear is that conservative voters across Ohio are hungry for it. They are eager for the economic opportunity that the clean-energy economy offers, and they want elected officials to lead on this issue. In a new poll of Republican and conservative Ohio voters, the data show that:

‒ 78 percent of these voters support President Trump.
‒ 60 percent support existing renewable-energy standards.
‒ Nearly four in five conservative voters in Ohio (79 percent) say they would tell a Republican candidate to support policies that encourage energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy in the state.
‒ 82 percent of voters surveyed supported programs to encourage energy efficiency, 87 percent supported net metering, 60 percent supported requiring an increase in the use of renewable energy to 12.5 percent by 2027 and 76 percent supported increasing research and development in battery-storage technologies.
‒ Conservative voters also register strong and significant support for establishing setback limits for wind projects that will allow wind-energy investment to occur in rural Ohio while protecting landowners’ rights to lease their land for wind projects with 76 percent support. Only 17 percent of conservative voters oppose it.

These numbers are strong and clear. And when you combine these hopes and priorities of conservative voters with the many economic benefits Ohio stands to gain by embracing clean energy, this shouldn’t be a controversial policy discussion.

Ohio’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, for example, is quite modest in that it requires utilities to draw just 12.5 percent of their power supply from renewable sources like wind and solar by 2027. That leaves 87.5 percent of Ohio’s power supply to come from coal, natural gas and nuclear generation. Just like good financial investment practices, having a diverse energy portfolio is a smart and conservative strategy.

And there are numerous indicators that access to a reliable supply of renewable energy is a powerful economic development tool.

Columbus made the top-20-finalists list for the location of Amazon’s second headquarters — an economic-development opportunity that represents a $5 billion investment and up to 50,000 new jobs. Amazon is prioritizing the availability of renewable power in their selection criteria, but Ohio’s Republican leaders are actively trying to weaken Ohio’s already-modest standard.

When it comes to property rights and economic development, our state legislators are standing in the way of another $4.2 billion worth of investment in Ohio wind power. Overly restrictive setback regulations that were put in place in 2014 by legislative leaders have stopped new wind development in Ohio dead in its tracks.

Neighboring states are enjoying billions of dollars in investment that should be coming to Ohio. Farmers and rural property owners deserve the right to develop their land and earn real income from the generation of wind power on their property. Thankfully, state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, has introduced legislation to fix these egregious restrictions, protect property owners’ rights to generate income on their land and open Ohio back up for business.

I have worked to advance conservative values and policies in Ohio for decades, and I know a good opportunity to align policy, politics and voter preference when I see one. Advancing strong clean-energy policies is a straight and clear path forward to create jobs, strengthen the economy and defend property rights in Ohio. What could be more conservative than that?

Mike Hartley is a consultant with the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, an organization that supports an “all-of- the-above” energy future that includes clean and renewable energy innovation and solutions.

OHCEF releases statewide survey showing conservative voters overwhelmingly support clean energy policies

Columbus, OHIO – Today, the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum (OHCEF) released a statewide poll Ohio Conservative Energy Forum Survey Key showing conservative voters throughout the state overwhelmingly support public policies that encourage greater production of renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency, including renewable energy standards and revising wind setback rules.

The poll was conducted by the Republican polling firm, Public Opinion Strategies and only interviewed voters who identified as Republican or independents who also say they are conservative.

Nearly four-in-five conservative voters in Ohio (79 percent) say they would tell a Republican candidate to support policies that encourage energy efficiency and greater use of renewable energy in the state.

Accordingly, 82 percent of voters surveyed supported programs to encourage energy efficiency, 87 percent supported net metering, 60 percent supported requiring an increase in the use of renewable energy to 12.5 percent by 2027 and 76 percent supported increasing R&D in battery storage technologies.

“This poll is something Ohio’s elected officials need to know, especially as new legislation is being considered in the Republican-led Ohio General Assembly to reduce energy efficiency standards,” said Mike Hartley, consultant, OHCEF. “The poll clearly shows that conservatives support energy efficiency policies and see it as a way to create more jobs and move Ohio forward.”

Conservative voters also register strong and significant support for establishing setback limits for wind projects that will allow wind energy investment to occur in rural Ohio while protecting individual landowner’s rights to lease their land for wind projects with 76 percent support. Only 17 percent of conservative voters oppose it.

Support may in part be due to the electorate’s sense that increasing use of renewable energy will benefit jobs in Ohio. These conservative voters register positive feelings toward a range of energy sources, particularly natural gas and energy efficiency.

“With the continuing debate about Ohio’s wind set back, it’s clear Ohio conservatives are ready to allow farmers the opportunity to decide what’s best for their business and their property,” said Hartley. “Conservatives also realize that if Ohio wants to attract businesses such as Amazon and Facebook, renewable energy is key.”

In addition, 85 percent of conservative voters voiced willingness to personally pay more for their electricity if sourced from renewable energy sources.

Public Opinion Strategies conducted the survey from December 7-11, 2017 and completed 400 telephone interviews with registered voters who identify as Republican or independents who say they are conservative. The margin of sampling error for this statewide sample of conservative voters is +/-­‐4.9%.

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Ohio Conservative Energy Forum Survey Key Findings_FINAL

Media Statement SB 238

For Immediate Release December 6, 2017

The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum today issued the following statement from Tyler Duvelius, Ohio Conservative Energy Forum Board and Leadership Council Member, in response to State Senator Matt Dolan’s (R-Chagrin Falls) introduction of Senate Bill 238 – legislation to fix Ohio’s wind setback policy.

“We applaud Senator Dolan for leading the charge to ensure we protect the property rights of land owners, while ensuring Ohio can benefit from the jobs and economic investment from wind energy. The proposed legislation is a compromise between the current policy and what existed before 2014. Renewable energy plays an important role in our national security, as illustrated by the U.S. Army recently contracting solar and wind to power about half of Fort Hood’s operations to ensure that the base has access to power if the grid is attacked and saving taxpayers millions by doing so. Additionally, the current policy is limiting landowner rights, and it’s imperative we allow farmers to decide how to run their business, lease their land and provide for their families.”

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Media Contact: Michael Hartley, 614-395-4545

Media Statement

For immediate release September 14, 2017

The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum today issued the following statement from James Ervin, Chair, Ohio Conservative Energy Forum Board and Leadership Council Member, in response to State Senator Cliff Hite’s legislation to fix Ohio’s wind setback policy.

“We support Sen. Cliff Hite’s legislation to fix Ohio’s wind setback policy. Sen. Hite’s proposed legislation is a compromise between the current policy and what existed before 2014. Ohio must focus on renewable energy if it wants to continue to attract businesses such as Amazon and Facebook. More than 100 U.S. Fortune 500 companies have signed a pledge to be powered by 100% renewable energy by 2025 – in order for Ohio to attract such companies, the option must exist to build wind farms and power facilities with that energy.

We also must consider the role renewable energy plays in our national security. The U.S. Army recently contracted solar and wind to power about half of Fort Hood’s operations to ensure that the base has access to power if the grid is attacked and will save taxpayers millions.

The current policy is limiting landowner rights and it’s imperative we allow farmers to decide how to run their business, lease their land and provide for their families.

We are grateful to Sen. Hite for his continued focus on renewable energy and the importance it plays to the future growth of our state.”

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Media Contact: Michael Hartley, 614-395-4545

Time for conservatives to lead on clean energy in Ohio: Mike Hartley (Opinion)

For decades, conservatives led the way protecting our natural resources. From Richard Nixon’s establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency to George H.W. Bush’s push for a stronger Clean Air Act or Teddy Roosevelt’s designation of the national parks, Republican leaders have been at the forefront of the country’s most significant policies.

Yet, when it comes to our energy future, we’ve allowed the debate to be dominated by the left. Not only has this fueled the hyperpartisanship we see today, it also has failed to deliver a comprehensive energy plan that creates market and protects our economic and national security interests.

Nowhere is this paradigm more apparent than in Ohio right now. For too long the two political parties have been stuck on opposite sides of the debate. The state legislature continues to debate the fate of Ohio’s clean-energy policy with entrenched views from continuing the freeze or outright repealing of the old clean energy standards on one side to full reinstatement or even stronger standards on the other side – typically, along party lines.
The bill would freeze renewable-energy standards for three additional years.

Ohio’s clean-energy standards have been frozen for the past two years – thwarting investment and development across the state. Were the original standards arbitrary? Yes. Does the state face a different set of factors now than when the standards were first established? Absolutely. Does that mean we should abandon a path to diversify our energy portfolio? No. These are real challenges facing Ohio and we need a sensible path forward.

That’s why the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum (OHCEF) was established. We believe in a genuine “all-of-the-above” approach to Ohio’s energy policy – one that recognizes our history while also committing to advancing clean and renewable energy and energy efficiency. Moving Ohio toward an all-of-the-above policy will create jobs, expand our economy, increase national security through energy independence, improve quality of life and leave behind a powerful legacy for future generations of Ohioans.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in the state legislature are fond of talking about the need to create jobs. But their decision to at least temporarily freeze mandates that were designed to boost the use of renewable energy is actually costing us jobs and other economic benefits derived from a fast-growing industry. Where is the sense…

A comprehensive energy policy that diversifies our electricity will lower systematic costs.
The goal of OHCEF is to provide a vehicle for individuals, organizations and businesses to join the conservative conversation about Ohio’s energy future. We believe that a comprehensive energy policy that diversifies our electricity will lower systematic costs by increasing our commitment to develop homegrown clean energy resources.

On the presidential campaign trail, we heard Gov. John Kasich restate his commitment to reinstate the right clean-energy policy framework and stop attempts to hold clean energy back in Ohio. He further went on to explain the importance of innovating and protecting our economic and national security interests. His administration has been at he forefront of lower taxes, attracting investment into the state and creating jobs. We see a clear and predictable energy policy as a vital component to foster a healthy economy for the state.
Gov. John Kasich chose a New Hampshire town hall meeting to warn Ohio GOP lawmakers that if they try to permanently gut the state’s energy efficiency programs and wind and solar requirements, the state will return to its original even tougher standards because “I am not playing around with this.”

If the conversation about Ohio’s clean energy future is to progress, we need to go beyond the debate about either continuing the freeze indefinitely or just reinstating the old framework. We need a new path. We need a policy framework that fosters innovation, encourages new investment and sets the right market signals. If we’re successful in achieving this, we can have a new policy that establishes an all-of-the-above generation portfolio, lowers the cost of electricity, creates jobs and makes Ohio an even more attractive place for businesses.

This is a huge opportunity for Ohio. Companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google are looking to locate facilities in the state. These billion-dollar investments utilize a lot of electricity and these companies want to power these facilities with renewable energy because it makes smart economic sense. An Amazon official who testified recently in Ohio about the state’s current wind setback policy said the only thing holding the state back is its energy policy.  We can create the right market-based clean energy policy framework that will attract these cutting-edge tech companies, strengthen our economy, control electricity costs and protect our natural resources in Ohio.

We’re at an energy crossroads. We can stay stuck in the past and slowly start to see our competitive advantage diminish and lose out on attracting 21st-century businesses or we can chart a new path that will create a stable future for our economy and generations to come. From my perspective, conservatives stand ready to embrace the future.

Mike Hartley is executive director of the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, founded in 2015 by conservatives favoring an “all-of-the-above” approach to Ohio’s energy policy.

http://www.cleveland.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/06/time_for_conservatives_to_lead.html

RELEASE: OHCEF concerned about effect of proposed PPA on Ohio taxpayers

(Columbus, OH) – The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum today expressed concern with the PUCO’s approved power purchase agreements for FirstEnergy and AEP, saying it is counter to the work by the General Assembly and the Administration to create a better business environment and reduce tax burdens on Ohio families.

“State leaders have done exceptional work on behalf of Ohio businesses and families through income tax cuts, eliminating tax and regulatory burdens on small business, elimination of the estate tax, and other efforts,” said Mike Hartley, the group’s executive director.  “As a result, Ohio is a more predictable and more attractive place to live, to work, and to do business.”

Hartley said the OHCEF recognizes the unprecedented transition the utility industry is undergoing and does not want to see Ohio companies struggle.  The group also sees striking differences between the two decisions.

“While OHCEF has concerns about subsidizing uncompetitive power plants, we support AEP’s commitment to wind and solar, and their transition to energy diversity, security and reliability,” Hartley said. “AEP appears committed to transition to future with cleaner, cheaper sources of electricity; unfortunately, FirstEnergy seems content with sticking small businesses and families with higher electricity bills.”

By conservative estimates, FirstEnergy’s deal will cost 2 million Ohio ratepayers an additional $3.25 a month, or more than $400 million over the next two and a half years – but some analysts predict it could cost into the billions. Those ratepayers, Hartley pointed out, are Ohio’s small businesses that create jobs and drive the economy, in addition to individual households.  According to AEP, their deal will cost ratepayers about $200 million in the first couple of years – but some predicted it could exceed $1billion.

“This is a high price for Ohioans to pay to keep outdated power plants afloat when better, cleaner, more efficient options exist,” Hartley said. He compared the deal to the current alternative energy rider levied on ratepayers.  According to the Energy Mandate Study Committee report, the rider varies anywhere from 27 cents per month to $1.31 per month depending on the service provider – at least one-third the cost of the proposed power purchase agreement.

Alternative energy development helps put the state on a path to energy security and independence, and continued economic growth through energy innovation.  These are key reasons the OHCEF supports an all of the above approach to energy reforms and stands ready to work with AEP to advance Ohio’s clean energy future.  In contrast, there’s not much to work with in FirstEnergy’s plan.

“As conservatives, we’re advocating for common-sense solutions to energy security that reduce financial burdens on taxpayers while strengthening our economy and energy independence,” Hartley said.

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Statement from OHCEF on U.S. Supreme Court stay in Clean Power Plan case

(Columbus, OH, February 10, 2016) – Mike Hartley, executive director of the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, issued the following statement today in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to grant a stay in the ongoing Clean Power Plan case:

“The Supreme Court’s decision to issue a stay until the legal challenges are heard should have no impact on Ohio’s decision to pursue a true all-of-the-above energy policy, including continued development of domestically produced renewable resources. Ohio must move forward.

“While Ohio’s conservative leaders have been suspect of the Obama Administration’s plan, we must not allow the Clean Power Plan delay to serve as an excuse to keep Ohio’s energy future on hold.  Such a move would be misguided and result in the state falling even further behind the rest of the nation. Now is the time to put in place the right clean energy policy that promotes energy diversity, security and advances our state’s economy through energy innovation.”

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OHCEF concerned about effect of proposed PPA on Ohio taxpayers

(Columbus, OH, December 8, 2015) – The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum today expressed concern with the recent power purchase agreement between FirstEnergy and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, saying that it is counter to the work by the General Assembly and the Administration to create a better business environment and reduce tax burdens on Ohio families.

“State leaders have done exceptional work on behalf of Ohio businesses and families through income tax cuts, eliminating tax burdens on small business, elimination of the estate tax, and other efforts,” said Mike Hartley, the group’s executive director.  “As a result, Ohio is a more predictable and more attractive place to live, to work, and to do business.”

Hartley said the OHCEF does not want to see an Ohio company struggle, but there are more innovative, forward-thinking ways to advance the energy industry in Ohio.  He encouraged state legislators to take a close look at the power purchase agreement.

By conservative estimates this deal will cost 2 million Ohio ratepayers an additional $3.25 a month, or more than $400 million over the next two and a half years – but some analysts predict it could cost into the billions. Those ratepayers, Hartley pointed out, are Ohio’s small businesses that create jobs and drive the economy, in addition to individual households.  The OHCEF recognizes the power purchase agreement includes energy efficiency and renewable energy provisions.  Unfortunately, these provisions are unenforceable.

“This is a high price for Ohioans to pay to keep two outdated power plants afloat, when better, cleaner, more efficient options exist,” Hartley said. Hartley compared the deal to the current alternative energy rider levied on ratepayers.  According to the Energy Mandate Study Committee report, the rider varies anywhere from 27 cents per month to $1.31 per month depending on the service provider – at least one-third the cost of the proposed power purchase agreement.

Alternative energy development helps put the state on a path to energy security and independence, and continued economic growth through energy innovation.  These are key reasons the OHCEF supports an all of the above approach to energy reforms. In contrast, the proposed power purchase agreement does little to advance Ohio’s energy position, rather it levies additional costs on Ohio taxpayers simply to maintain the status quo.

“As conservatives, we’re advocating for common-sense solutions to energy security that reduce financial burdens on taxpayers while strengthening our economy and energy independence,” Hartley said.

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