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Dylan Sullivan’s Blog

On clean energy, Ohio Senate Bill 315 much-improved, but more work to do

Dylan Sullivan

Posted May 17, 2012 in Solving Global Warming

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On Tuesday the Ohio Senate voted to approve Substitute Senate Bill 315 (SB 315), the Governor’s energy bill. Thanks to the work of clean energy businesses and environmental advocates in Ohio, and Senators Hite, LaRose, and Widener, who were willing to stick their neck out for clean energy, the bill that passed today is much-improved.

For some background, Ohio has three clean energy standards in existing law:

  • the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires utilities to buy increasing amounts of renewable energy;
  • the Advanced Energy Standard, which requires utilities to get 12.5 % of their energy mix from “advanced energy resources”(mainly low carbon sources of energy like a new nuclear plant, combined heat and power project, or a coal power plant that captures and sequesters its carbon dioxide emissions) by 2025; and
  • the Energy Efficiency Standard, which requires utilities to run programs that help their customers save energy. I’ve spent most of my time in Ohio the last four years focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy. See here, here, and here.

SB 315 as it was introduced would have added Combined Heat and Power (CHP) and Waste Energy Recovery (WER) as eligible technologies in the renewable and efficiency standards. NRDC opposed the addition of the technologies to the renewable energy standard because they don’t meet the definition of “renewable” (both use fossil fuels), and adding sizable new resources to the renewable standard would undermine the hundreds of millions of dollars that renewable energy project developers invested in Ohio under the renewable standard. Adding CHP and WER to the energy efficiency standard would displace energy efficiency programs, which are saving energy at one-third the cost of producing it.

The bill that passed today includes measures that will reduce the degree to which CHP and WER deployment will undermine investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Together, even with these measures, the bill is far from ideal. But it is much better. Some of the good provisions:

  1. Only new CHP and WER projects (with an exception I’ll talk about below) can count toward renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Environmental advocates and clean energy businesses worked very hard advocating for this, and I’m glad we won this provisional victory.
  2. WER projects can count toward either the renewable or efficiency standards.
  3. CHP projects can count toward the efficiency standard, but these projects have to meet minimum thermal efficiency requirements.
  4. CHP projects can’t count toward the renewable energy standard (with the same exception I’ll talk about below). This is good because CHP projects are essentially efficient natural gas plants, and natural gas is not a renewable energy source.

We can thank Senators Hite, LaRose, and Widener, and clean energy businesses, for supporting a compromise that included the protections above. They’ll help preserve the intent and environmental benefit of the renewable energy and energy efficiency standard.

But the bill should be improved in the House.

One bad provision allows existing, in-the-ground CHP projects at state colleges and universities to count toward the renewable standard or the energy efficiency standard. CHP projects shouldn’t be let in to the renewable standard: they’re basically efficient natural gas plants, as I mentioned before. Also, these projects have already been developed; electricity customers shouldn’t have to give the developers a windfall. My understanding is that this amendment was designed to funnel incentives to projects at Kent State University and Cincinnati State. A second bad provision would allow biologically-derived methane gas (for instance, from an anaerobic digester or a landfill) to count as renewable electricity, even if it isn’t made into electricity. Read that sentence again. It doesn’t make any sense. A final provision worth noting: any new or repowered power plant in Ohio can count toward utilities’ advanced energy targets: even conventional simple-cycle gas turbine would as “advanced energy.”

So how did SB 315 turn out for clean energy? It is one step better than before, but these bad provisions take us a half-step back. We look forward to working with our allies to improve the bill in the House.

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Comments

TallulahMay 17 2012 10:28 PM

re: "more work to do":

SB 315 contains a Fracking Gag provision that prevents doctors who treat victims of fracking "incidents" from sharing any information to the public about the hazardous chemicals poisoning them:

(H)(1) If a medical professional, in order to assist in the diagnosis or treatment of an individual who was affected by an incident associated with the production operations of a well, requests the exact chemical composition of each product, fluid, or substance and of each chemical component in a product, fluid, or substance that is designated as a trade secret pursuant to division (I) of this section, the person claiming the trade secret protection pursuant to that division shall provide to the medical professional the exact chemical composition of the product, fluid, or substance and of the chemical component in a product, fluid, or substance that is requested.

(2) A medical professional who receives information pursuant to division (H)(1) of this section shall keep the information confidential and shall not disclose the information for any purpose that is not related to the diagnosis or treatment of an individual who was affected by an incident associated with the production operations of a well.

Please work with your allies to eliminate that provision, too.

Heat is Power AssociationMay 21 2012 06:09 PM

Dylan,

Thanks for your article and helping to keep folks informed of the fast progress on this bill!

I did want to make one important clarification on your note about Waste Energy Recovery which the industry calls Waste Heat to Power (WH2P).

WH2P actually does not use fossil fuel at all in its process, nor does it release emissions. The fuel for WH2P is simply byproduct *heat* from industrial manufacturing.

Any fossil fuel burned was used for the manufacturing process itself, say making paper or steel. The heat that is a byproduct of that process is the fuel for WH2P. WH2P works by simply a heat exchanging process that includes no combustion, and therefore no emissions.

Just like wind or solar, WH2P is a use it or lose it resource for emission free power. In fact the same technology used for WH2P is used for Geothermal and Solar Thermal facilities.

It is important to associate the burning of the fossil fuel with the process that used it, and recognize the opportunity for emissions free electricity that can be generated from its byproduct. As I often explain to folks new to this concept-- if you want to make spaghetti you have to boil water, which will release steam. If you're concerned about making steam, don't make spaghetti. But if you are going to make spaghetti, or in this case paper or steel or chemicals...you ought to use the steam/heat wisely.

Heat is Power....Let's Capture It!

Thanks,
Kelsey Southerland
The Heat is Power Association

LHMay 22 2012 10:27 AM

Kelsey -

That's just semantics. "Use" wasn't the right word to, um, use in that case. Something like "rely on" would have been more appropriate.

That doesn't change the overall point and conclusion though. You're certainly correct that if we're going to create the heat, we may as well do something with it. But it's also correct that the heat is created by fossil fuels, which are not renewable.

Allowing waste heat to be classified as renewable incentivizes the continued use of carbon pollutants at the expense of zero carbon power, which is truly renewable.

Brian KunkemoellerMay 25 2012 10:11 PM

Correction: the loophole is for the University of Cincinnati not Cincinnati. UC has consistently chosen not to invest in renewables since the passage of Senate Bill 221, including 28 million dollars in fossil fuel infrastructure just two years ago. It is a clear misuse of the renewable energy credits which will dilute the rec market and cost the wind market dearly. The university chose to lobby for the credits so they could provide recs for first energy, who is in the process of signing a renewable sourced energy contract with the city of Cincinnati. They will be able to provide them for cheaper than any wind farm or other renewable source in the state. I believe the University should be required to use generated revenue from the recs only on new, truly renewable energy projects, ensuring that the extra money creates jobs and makes a significant impact in reducing carbon pollution.

Heat is Power AssociationMay 26 2012 06:34 PM

Hi LH,

I would love to discuss this more thoroughly if you're interested, please feel free to contact me by visiting our contact page: http://www.heatispower.org/about/contact/. Your last sentence, "allowing waste heat to be classified as renewable incentivizes the continued use of carbon pollutants at the expense of zero carbon power" is the common argument we hear against waste heat as a renewable, but I truly don't understand it, and think perhaps I could do a better job of explaining the mechanics of waste heat to power.

The power that is made from waste heat is actually made without any combustion (unlike fossil fuel generated power), so the power itself is absolutely zero emissions. The process and the technology is exactly the same as that used to generate power from geothermal and solar thermal.

You're correct in that the heat itself is a result of fossil fuel that was burned for industrial production, but the problem you may have then is with industrial production itself. Like the spaghetti example, if you are concerned chiefly with continued carbon pollutants, then the battle that needs to be fought is shutting down industrial production as it is physically impossible to undergo industrial production without burning fossil fuels.

The generation of electricity without combustion from the -byproduct- of industrial manufacturing is exactly what you (and I) advocate for more of, zero carbon power.

No one would open a paper, chemical, or steel making facility in order to generate heat to make emissions free power, so incentivizing the capture of waste heat for zero carbon electricity generation would absolutely not incentivize the continued use of carbon pollutants. It's simply a wasted 'use it or lose it' resource, like wind or solar.

Although waste heat is not a naturally occurring product, in a country engaged in industrial manufacturing it is certainly reoccurring.

Again, I completely understand the concern and sentiment for getting our air clean, and I agree! Of course, hundred of thousands of Americans, and our export market relies on industrial manufacturing. If we're going to have industrial manufacturing in this country, we absolutely ought to make all the emissions free/zero carbon/non-combusted electricity we can from it's byproduct! And, just with traditional renewables, making power from a zero carbon resource is very difficult, and costly! If there are not incentives for its development, it won't happen-- just like with the traditional renewables.

The more emissions free electricity our country generates, the better. We're here to help make sure something that has long been understood as a waste, is captured.

Please reach out so we can discuss more.

Heat is Power, Let's Capture It!
Kelsey

Brian KunkemoellerMay 26 2012 11:12 PM

Kelsey, I heard the same arguments from UC's utilities director.

Let's be honest: waste heat and solar are obviously not at all the same thing. There is an appropriate credit for waste heat and CHP: energy efficiency. Since these methods are improving the output of energy from fossil fuel usage, this is clearly the correct category for the technologies.

The rule of thumb for renewables: will the energy source last forever? The answer in the case of CHP and waste heat is simply no. You could not rely on waste energy or CHP to last forever, because they require the extraction and usage finite fossil fuel resources. As long as the earth exists, there will always be sun, wind, and geothermal heat. There will not always be fossil fuels, and the extraction of any such resources will always, always negatively impact human health and reduce the livability of our planet. I find it surprising that I have to explain the definition of renewable energy to anyone beyond sixth grade.

Counting this technology as renewable energy would be giving subsidies to fossil fuel based production industries. Meanwhile, the renewable credits are specifically designed to make non-fossil fuel based energy retail industries such as wind able to compete with the heavily subsidized coal and gas energy retail industries. Clean energy industries would not be able to compete with third party fossil fuel based non-energy retail production industries when selling RECs on the market, thus effectively removing their specifically designated subsidy. Kelsey, what you are effectively asking for would push the truly clean renewable energy providers out of the market, cost thousands of jobs, take away multipurposing revenue from landowners, and possibly shut down an emerging industry, meanwhile forcing continued reliance on finite fossil fuels.

The industries you represent will continue to operate regardless of receiving renewable credits, since they aren't in the business of energy retail, and will provide jobs at their respective facilities with or without the renewable credits. The efficiency credits should be more than sufficient for your constituency, as they are more than ample. I'm absolutely certain that almost anyone would support efficient industries getting the more appropriate energy efficiency credits, and I ask you to consider making this the appropriate goal of the organization which you represent. Energy efficiency is good business, and I support only the appropriate recognition of that.

Finally, I can also truthfully state that I do not currently have any professional interests or stand to have any financial gain from any outcomes in this scenario. I am simply a college student who analyzes clean energy policy in my spare time because I care about having a healthy and livable world for my future grandchildren.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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