COLUMBUS – This week, a bill that would allow Ohio residents access to the benefits of community solar power continued to advance through the state House. House Bill 450, which would provide for 2,000 megawatts of community solar to be installed across the state, had an initial committee hearing on Wednesday.
HB 450 was introduced last October by Representatives Baldridge (R-Winchester) and Lanese (R- Grove City). Two hearings were held at the end of the year that led to an interested parties meeting with the bill authors. Action was taken this week at a third hearing before the House Public Utilities committee to adopt a substitute to reflect the outcome of the working group.
“HB 450 will remove government barriers to community solar programs so more Ohioans can have the freedom to choose their energy future. Community solar draws private investment dollars to areas outside of the traditional utility model which means more jobs, economic development, and tax revenue for local communities, said Sarah Spence, Executive Director of the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum. “We are encouraged by the momentum of this innovative, free-market proposal and the economic benefits it will provide across the state.”
There are currently 21 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have some form of policy enabling community solar, according to a recent report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The community solar market nationwide has been expanding rapidly of late, outpacing previous projections. Research firm Woods Mackenzie projects that 4.5 gigawatts will be installed nationwide in the next 5 years, representing a 9% increase above what had previously been forecast.
“The current version of the bill incorporates feedback from a wide range of stakeholders across the state, and we look forward to continuing this process to produce a final bill that will allow Ohio to catch up to its neighbors and the rest of the country in allowing its residents to access the cost savings and environmental benefits of community solar,” said Jim Murray, Midwest Regional Director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “The environmental impacts of this bill will benefit all Ohioans, and it will deliver economic benefits to rural landowners, as well as people who rent or are otherwise unable to host a solar array at their home.”
The bill will allow for 1,000 megawatts of solar power to be installed by rural landowners and other citizens who want to realize the cost savings associated with community solar power, and will help revitalize economically depressed areas by allowing for an additional 1,000 megawatts to be installed on environmentally compromised brownfield sites.
“Community solar would allow more Ohio consumers who want solar but can’t put it on their own roofs to have access to solar power at a lower price,” said Tom Bullock, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board of Ohio. “This tool will enable Ohio families and small businesses to convert their electricity to Ohio-generated, zero-emission power at a price within their means.”
HB 450 will continue to move through the committee process with a goal of final passage. “We appreciate the openness that legislators have shown so far in listening to their residents who are clamoring for access to community solar,” said Jim Murray, Midwest Director of CCSA. “We urge the legislature to keep up the momentum and get this bill over the finish line as quickly as possible.”