Renewable Power and Energy Efficiency on the Rise in Ohio
Ohio is on its way to a clean energy future, according to a new report by Environment Ohio, Ohio’s Clean Energy Report Card, Year 2: Wind, Solar, and Energy Efficiency on the Rise. Two years into the implementation of the state’s clean energy law, which sets standards for both renewable energy and energy efficiency, Ohio saved enough electricity each year to power 82,000 homes, among other significant benefits.
Coal-fired power plants still make up the vast majority of Ohio’s electricity supply, and that dependence contributes to making Ohio one of the nation’s largest emitters of soot, smog and global warming pollution. However, as Ohio’s largest utilities are taking steps to retire some of their oldest and most inefficient plants, clean energy technologies are becoming an increasingly important part of Ohio’s energy economy.
“As utilities modernize their electricity portfolios, Ohio’s Clean Energy Law is putting the state on track to replace its dirtiest fuel with the cleanest,” said Julian Boggs, Environment Ohio policy advocate. “Ohio is at a turning point, and we can see a clear, bright future ahead of us. Now is the time to double-down on clean energy and not look back.”
Environment Ohio’s report found that Ohio's clean energy law had been instrumental in the development of major clean energy projects across the state. In 2011, a 99 megawatt wind farm, the state’s largest, went online in Paulding County. The wind farm was built after American Electric Power signed a long-term contract to purchase electricity from its developer in order to meet their targets for renewable energy generation.
Other major projects highlighted in the report include Turning Point Solar which will break ground this summer in Noble County and is expected to be one of the largest solar projects east of the Mississippi, and a solar array on a Campbell’s Soup factory in Napoleon, which will be large enough to provide 15 percent of that factory’s power. In the short term, however, the biggest boost to Ohio’s clean energy sector has been from energy efficiency programs.
“In the short term, the cheapest, cleanest form of energy is efficiency. Ohio’s energy law has been remarkably successful in getting utilities to help their consumers save money and help cut pollution at the same time,” said Boggs. Utility programs saved Ohio consumers $351 million in 2009 and 2010, according to the American Council on an Energy Efficient Economy.
Clean energy alternatives are good news for Ohio’s health, too. “Pollution from power plants has a negative public health impact,” said Dr. Aparna Bole, Sustainability Manager at University Hospitals and a pediatrician at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Here in Ohio, we have an important opportunity to invest in the health of our communities through investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.”
Ohio’s growing clean energy economy is seeing jobs benefits as well. "Ohio's clean energy law ensures demand for solar energy that gives us confidence that we can grow our business," said Nael Zayed, a sales engineer with Yellowlite, Inc, a Cleveland, Ohio-based Solar Panel Installation company. "Because of the law, we’ve been able to grow and hire knowing that there will always be a buyer for solar power."
The report also evaluated individual utilities in their success in developing clean energy in 2010, the most recent year for which a complete data set was available. Dayton Power & Light and American Electric Power earned top marks for their efforts, while Duke Energy and First Energy missed the mark. Duke Energy earned a C-, coming short on securing renewable power, and FirstEnergy’s D- grade largely stemmed from its failure to implement energy efficiency programs.
Despite these shortfalls, the report showed a very positive picture of clean energy development in Ohio. “Every single one of Ohio’s utilities has been engaged in the development of clean energy. Even Duke and FirstEnergy have showed encouraging signs in 2011 and I’m optimistic that their scores will improve in our next report,” said Boggs.
In order to further tap clean energy potential in the state, the report made several recommendations to policymakers including stronger oversight from state regulators on renewable energy and energy efficiency utility programs, and a suite of supporting policies such as stronger building codes and better financing tools. Ultimately, said Boggs, legislators should consider strengthening the standards. “Leading states have solar standards that are six times as strong as Ohio’s. As the evidence continues to pour in that clean energy can provide local and sustainable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, we need to continue to be raising the bar.”
Environment Ohio is a state-wide, citizen-based, environmental advocacy organization.
By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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