Ohio Turns the Tide on Renewable Power Mandates

Published June 16, 2014

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Friday signed a law blocking scheduled increases in the state’s renewable power mandates, punctuating a broader effort among the states to roll back the once-fashionable mandates.

Just five years ago, proponents of renewable power mandates were aggressively playing offense in the state legislatures. Between 2004 and 2009, nearly half of all states enacted renewable power mandates, requiring a designated share of electricity delivery in the state to come from renewable sources. By 2009, 30 states had renewable power mandates, and renewable power proponents confidently talked of imposing mandates in all 50 states.

Fast-forward to 2014, however, and renewable power mandates are on an entirely different trajectory. Since 2009, no state has enacted a renewable power mandate. Several states with existing mandates are considering rolling back or outright repealing them. Where mandate proponents so recently and aggressively played offense, they are now running backwards and playing defense.

This shift in momentum should not come as a surprise. States with renewable power mandates are suffering skyrocketing electricity prices. According to Energy Information Administration data, electricity prices are rising at double the national average in states with renewable power mandates. A decade ago, renewable-power hucksters mesmerized legislators with a variety of biased and rigged studies making bold predictions about their schemes reducing electricity costs. Real-world electricity prices, however, have conclusively demonstrated renewable power mandates inflict tremendous punishment on consumers’ electricity budgets.

In 2008, I warned Ohio legislators about what was to come. In testimony in the Ohio House and Senate, I presented the real-world data showing renewable power is substantially more expensive than conventional electricity sources. Nevertheless, later that year the Ohio legislature enacted renewable power mandates. It did not surprise me in 2013 when I was invited back to the Senate to testify in favor of rolling back the mandates.

When Kasich on Friday signed the law blocking scheduled future increases in the mandate, Ohio beat out several close competitors for the distinction of being the first to turn the tide officially. In Kansas, for example, the Senate voted to repeal the state’s renewable power mandates outright. The House came very close to doing the same, with a narrow 63–60 vote preserving the mandates—for now. Kansas legislative leaders vow to revisit the mandates and end them once and for all in 2015.

The momentum extends well beyond Ohio and Kansas. As electricity prices in recent years proved my warnings correct, legislators across the nation asked me to write up model legislation they could personalize for their individual states and employ as a starting point for discussions to end the mandates. State legislators attending an American Legislative Exchange Council meeting in 2012 unanimously voted to approve that model legislation, titled the Electricity Freedom Act.

In the two years since, Ohio and Kansas have taken the lead, and legislators in states such as North Carolina and Texas also have come close to rolling back or repealing renewable power mandates. And when Arkansas state Rep. Warwick Sabin last year presented a bill to impose renewable power mandates there, his legislation died a painful death when no legislator would even second a call to bring the bill to a vote.

Expect momentum against renewable power mandates to gain steam in 2015. The November elections are likely to usher in a more conservative slate of state legislators than those elected in 2012. In addition, each passing year of soaring electricity prices drives an ever-increasing number of moderates and liberals to acknowledge the severe economic costs of renewable power mandates. As other states add to the Ohio success, renewables will rightly have to prove their value in the marketplace, and the unnecessary increases in electricity prices will end.