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.