Ohio’s Energy Future Tour, a statewide series of forums for Ohioans to discuss the positive economic and health impacts of clean energy in their lives and communities, completed its third stop at the University of Dayton last month, sponsored by the Hanley Sustainability Institute.
The University, which has deep historical roots in the local community, is also a major research facility that has performed more than $700 million in research since 2003. This is really is no surprise given that they call themselves the Flyers — an homage to Orville and Wilbur Wright, innovators credited for building the first successful airplane.
This tradition of innovation was alive and well at the tour stop in Dayton.
Shifting away from carbon-based energy — which pollutes our air and contributes to climate change — toward clean sources of energy, can help Dayton and the rest of the state develop a new innovative chapter in its history that will create well-paying jobs and protect the environment.
The forum was kicked off by Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and moderated by John Seryak, founder and chief executive of Go Sustainable Energy (which often collaborates on energy policy with the Ohio Manufacturers Association). The night featured panelists from local tech firms (Woolpert Inc., Energy Optimizers, Kastle Sola, Heapy Engineering, etc.), investment groups (Calvert Investments), public health entities (Kettering Health Network, the Public Health Department of Dayton and Montgomery County), and NRDC’s very own Jackson Morris, Director of Eastern Energy.
Clean Energy: The Star of the Night
Consistent with the Cleveland and Columbus stops on the tour, clean energy was the star of the night, with each panel stressing the importance of strong energy policies to attract both dollars and top talent to Ohio:
- Stu Dalheim of Calvert discussed the growing trend of large US companies setting internal targets for sourcing their energy from renewables and efficiency, and how that commitment factors into decisions to locate in states like Ohio.
- Nadja Turek of Woolpert Inc. concurred, quipping that green jobs are not “leprechauns,” but are actually a growing sector of the economy and should be the focal point for Ohio’s economic recovery efforts.
- Greg Smith of Energy Optimizers indicated that his firm — which has helped more than 125 school districts and local government organizations implement energy efficiency projects — is proof that Ohioans don’t have to choose between saving money and a healthy environment. Check out E2’s tour of Energy Optimizer’s Tipp City facility, and hear Greg Smith’s thoughts on how investing in energy efficiency can be good for both your wallet and the environment!
- The connection between clean energy and public health was further illuminated by Jennifer Marsee of the Public Health Department of Dayton and Montgomery County, who cited that using clean energy to cut carbon and tackle climate change would help ease some of the worst pollution-related health problems she sees everyday, including the nearly 12 percent of adults in Montgomery County that have asthma (nearly twice the national average).
- Another recurring theme — also the core of discussions at the prior forum stops — is the chilling effect that Ohio’s recent policy missteps has had on clean energy investment in the state. While Ohio should be benefiting from the clean tech boom, drawing solar, wind and energy efficiency firms into the state and bringing both economic security and improved health to Ohioans, these missteps are moving Ohio backward. The legislature passed two separate bills last Spring that throw a wrench in the works of Ohio’s clean energy economy. The first, S.B. 310, freezes for two years Ohio’s wildly successful efficiency and renewables standards while a legislative study committee reviews their “costs.” The second, H.B. 483, triples the property line setbacks for new commercial-scale wind turbines, making it harder to site any new large-scale commercial wind projects in the state.
But Progress is Possible Despite Recent Policy Setbacks …
…if Ohio moves quickly to right the ship.
This was the key message delivered by NRDC’s Jackson Morris as he described how essential Ohio’s efficiency and renewables policies are to successfully cutting harmful carbon pollution from power plants. As Ohio rolls up its sleeves to develop its plan for meeting the forthcoming federal carbon rules — the “Clean Power Plan,” which will be final this summer — the state need only look to clean energy to get the job done. In fact, NRDC’s modeling of the draft carbon rules last fall make clear that simply by reversing the ill-advised decision to freeze the efficiency and renewables standards, Ohio could meet the EPA target and with room to spare.
We’re not done yet!
The tour continues to move through key regions of the state, with the next stop in Toledo (details to be released soon) and making its way through Cincinnati and Athens before it wraps this summer.
But even if you aren’t able to attend, you can still have your voice heard by signing our petition telling Ohio’s leaders to make clean energy a priority. Because of Ohio’s clean energy policies, the state has attracted $1.3 billion in private clean energy investment through 2013. In that same period, Ohio’s energy efficiency programs saved consumers more than $1.5 billion on their energy bills. This means more dollars in Ohioans’ wallets to spend on their families. Regional economies are roaring back to life as clean energy businesses set up shop, creating good, local jobs that are not at risk of being shipped out of the state.
And as our communities transition from fossil fuels to renewables, we are all breathing cleaner air and protecting our health.
Samantha Williams is a staff attorney in Chicago with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).