To the editor:

A lot has changed in the last 10 years. Renewable energy, green energy and alternative energy have become household buzzwords for both those in favor and opposition to federal, state and local energy policy.

Big corporations have lobbied their way into the pockets of decision-makers, while state law has been ever-changing. Early policy formation from the state respected clean coal, nuclear, wind, solar, hydroelectric, biomass, cogeneration and other renewable energy projects. The 2009-10, 128th Ohio General Assembly passed Senate Bill 232, which created property tax exemptions to state-qualifying energy projects or facilities and created an alternative requirement of a payment in lieu of taxes or PILOT and created alternative energy zones.

There was a modification to this initial bill in 2013, and it still is being debated in some levels of government. The creation of this policy was most likely a response to a 2008 HB487, requiring electric companies to generate 12.5% of their electricity by 2027 from renewable energy sources. At one point, these state-mandated deadlines were put on hold by the General Assembly from 2014 to 2016. However, Governor Kasich vetoed changing the mandate to a voluntary standard, subsequently allowing the mandate progression.

Recently, the 2019 House Bill 6 reduced renewable mandates and bailed out big energy corporations, such as First Energy, and caused a scandal. Even with this change, renewable energy marches forward with a recent push from big city policy and urban request.

In 2017, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley pushed the Green Cincinnati Plan, which was subsequently adopted a year later. This 273-page document can be found on the city’s website and outlines the path to industrial solar in in rural Ohio to feed the consumption needs of the big city and urban sprawl. A much shorter, 12-page case study can be found on City Renewables titled “CINCINNATI’S PATH TO A 100 MW SOLAR DEAL," which states timeline of industrial solar farms now underway in Highland County.

There was universal buy in to these projects from those stakeholders in Cincinnati because the mass solar project was moving outside of the city as a cost-effective project with large political benefit. This movement from Mayor Cranley was not about balanced renewable energy policy, however maximizing the benefit of an industrial solar project to save the City of Cincinnati money and gain political points with innovators and environmentalists for future political gain.

In turn, Highland County and rural Ohio gain the future expensive brownfield cleanup sites on thousands of acres that will be useless for any kind of development, let alone agriculture production.

This has been created by public policy that may have had good intention, and important decisions made from information that has become outdated empty promises. The big city and the big corporations have decided one renewable energy path, industrial solar, and it will benefit them, being built out of sight and out of mind.

It is time for a sensible policy shift to protect rural Ohio. This renewable energy movement is not the multifaceted renewable portfolio promised to bring Ohioans renewable energy choice. This is a corporate and government money grab to receive temporary positive headlines.

In retrospect, my support and vote of Highland County Resolution Number 11-96 declaring Highland County an Alternative Energy Zone in April of 2011 has become bad policy. I would urge the Highland County commissioners to rescind that resolution.

You won’t be alone; the Sandusky County commissioners rescinded their declaration after seven years. If it doesn’t make sense any more, rescind it, don’t defend it.

Don’t worry about who passed it or why, because obviously times have changed, and it might be time to change or update the policy. Out-of-control industrial solar growth is not what was intended, and it will forever change the landscape of Highland County.

It will have a long-term negative effect on Highland County’s economics, the quality of life and most importantly, the way of life.

Jeremy R. Shaffer
Former Highland County Commissioner