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Personal View: Clean energy is vital to the health and economic well-being of the Buckeye State

Personal View: Clean energy is vital to the health and economic well-being of the Buckeye State
The health of our community, environment and economy are directly linked. Clean energy is essential to all three, with benefits that ensure a thriving business community and a robust health care system here in Ohio. That is why Ohio businesses and health care institutions are increasingly embracing clean energy and calling on lawmakers to do the same.

As the Ohio General Assembly considers policies that would undercut the state’s clean energy economy, lawmakers must take into account the economic and health benefits clean energy brings to the Buckeye State. Lawmakers should oppose proposed legislation that would weaken Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards and allow commercial and industrial customers to opt out of energy savings programs. Since 2015, dozens of major Ohio businesses, institutions, employers and investors — including the Cleveland Clinic, Mercy Health, Gap, Nestle and many others — have expressed public support for the state’s clean energy standards.

Lawmakers should also adopt language to overturn the stringent wind-siting setback standards. Restricting investment in wind energy and rolling back the renewable energy and energy efficiency standards would deprive Ohio businesses and individuals of valuable cost savings.

Ohio’s clean energy standards help both businesses and health care institutions reduce their operating costs. Because health care facilities are extremely energy intensive, access to affordable and reliable renewable energy and energy efficiency is all the more important. Furthermore, the savings captured as a result of energy efficiency projects can be devoted to patient care.

For example, Cleveland Clinic recently replaced old, energy-intensive lighting with more than 400,000 high-efficient LED lights, a switch that saves more than $3 million each year. Thanks to clean energy investments like these, the hospital system saved an estimated $50 million in energy costs over the last 10 years. As another added benefit to Ohio, the Clinic purchased nearly two-thirds of those LED lights from a company in Solon, and an Ohio company handled the installation.

Cincinnati-based health systems Mercy Health and TriHealth have also invested in energy efficiency for the win-win benefits of cost savings and improved air quality. Mercy Health locations in Tiffin and Williard, as well as TriHealth’s Good Samaritan Hospital, have all achieved Energy Star certification — joining a small group of 12 total Ohio hospitals boasting Energy Star certification. Energy Star hospitals save an average of $3,000 per bed, per year, on energy costs.

Ohio’s renewable energy standards have also paved the way for businesses to invest in locally produced renewable energy. General Motors recently announced it would power its Ohio manufacturing plants in Toledo, Parma, Lordstown and Defiance entirely with wind energy. Unfortunately, Ohio’s wind energy setback restrictions make it difficult for businesses to further invest in wind energy here in the Buckeye State.

Development of new wind energy projects has stalled since the setback requirements were enacted in 2014. Lawmakers are considering language that would fix the setback requirements — making it easier for companies to power their operations with cost-effective wind energy and for Ohio to attract companies that recognize the significant economic opportunity presented by wind energy. This is increasingly important as a growing number of companies set goals to reduce emissions and invest in renewable energy.

Policies that support energy efficiency projects and renewable energy development will also help Ohio capture new high-paying jobs. Clean energy already boasts over 100,000 jobs in Ohio. As the clean energy industry continues to grow, maintaining a healthy and productive workforce is critical. In addition, increased investments in renewable energy bolster grid reliability — keeping energy costs low, making Ohio’s energy systems more resilient and ensuring that health care systems are able to keep their doors open during times of extreme weather.

Across the board, Ohio businesses and health care institutions recognize the significant economic opportunity that clean energy standards present to their bottom lines and to the state they call home. Just last week, businesses, investors, health care providers and trade associations representing nearly 120,000 employees shared their support for clean energy with lawmakers — urging them to protect Ohio’s clean energy standards.

It is clear that renewable energy and energy efficiency are an important part of Ohio’s economy, as well as the health and well-being of its residents. Ohio must correct the wind setback restrictions and maintain the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.

Alli Gold Roberts is senior manager of state policy at Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit organization working with the most influential investors and companies to build leadership and drive solutions throughout the economy. Lauren Koch is associate director of climate and health at Health Care Without Harm.

SOURCE:  Crain’s Cleveland Business




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