ST. MARYS — Two couples — Janett and Norbert Albers and Shirley and Jack Werst — sat among the roughly 120 attendees at Midwest Electric’s converted warehouse buffet breakfast on Monday. They were around before energy from the electricity grid was first introduced into the area, and were among the first people to join Midwest Electric in 1936.
Before then, Norbert’s home used carbide stones dropped into water which created gas for the lights, while Jack’s home used an individually-owned Delco battery.
Each remembered the day that electricity from the grid first lit up their homes.
This year, which marks the electric coop’s 85th anniversary, arrives at a time when concerns about the future of the nation’s energy grid, and how the U.S. may not be prepared with old-fashioned pre-electric era technologies for individuals to safeguard themselves against outages and cyber attacks.
State Rep. James M. Hoops, R-81st District, who chairs the Public Utilities Committee, spoke about House Bill 6.
“As the chairman of this committee, my goal is to make sure we have diversified energy here in the state of Ohio. What that means is that we don’t rely on one sector of energy, whether that’s nuclear, coal, gas, or electric, because you never know which one something’s going to happen,” Hoops said.
House Bill 6 focuses on diversification, and the objective is to help Ohio avoid future incidents like the Texas incident this past year, where 210 people died from hypothermia during an electricity outage, and many blamed on poor energy policies.
According to Midwest Electric’s CEO Matt Berry, “Some energy experts say Texas was pretty close to a total system collapse, which would have meant thousands dead because of poor energy policy. That’s what we want to prevent.”
Berry blames tax incentives, specifically, the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the Production Tax Credit (PTC).
“On a per unit of energy produced basis, solar is getting about 250 times more in tax incentives than nuclear. Wind is getting 160 times more in tax incentives than nuclear, wind is getting 44 times more in tax incentives than coal and natural gas. Solar is getting 71 times more in tax incentives than coal and natural gas.”
The transmission costs are also going to be high considering what it takes “to get it from that new solar or wind farm to the load center, to the point of use,” Berry said. “With the renewable plants that are out there now, the amount of high voltage transmission would require a 252 percent increase in transmission to meet the renewable energy goals, a cost of $1.3 trillion just in transmission. It’s totally unrealistic, and it gets to the point of land use.”
State Rep. Craig S. Riedel, R-82nd District, worked on Senate Bill 52, which was passed at the end of June and was effective Monday, Oct. 11. It focuses on renewable energy like solar and wind power in Ohio, and tackles the particular issue of land rights.
“There was a point in time when Senate Bill 52 was struggling. I wasn’t certain we were going to be able to get it through,” said Riedel.
After a meeting with 35 to 40 people, a compromise was reached dealing with programs for wind and solar power.
“In the end, the bill that we passed, the wind and solar people in the industry wern’t opposed to the bill. What this bill does is, for any future development in the state of Ohio when it comes to wind and solar development, when that project is on the drawing board — early on in the process — that developer has to notify the county commissioners where that project is going to be located … at that point in time there’s a public meeting [which will be attended by] the commissioners, the developer, and the township trustees that are located in the footprint of the project,” said Riedel.
The developer has to inform the three county commissioners what they plan to do, where the project will be located, the capacity of the project, and what type of development the project is — wind or solar. A 90-day window is triggered where the commissioners have three choices: they can say “no” to the project; they can require the developer to shrink the size of the project by making it smaller within that footprint; or the third option is if after 90 days they do nothing at all, then that’s essentially giving a “go” to the project.
State Auditor Keith Faber told the group, “I’m your watchdog. What I do is audit the 6,000 government entities across Ohio that spend your tax dollars.”
Among the roughly 4,800 audits conducted this past year, as in past years, “people were lying, cheating, and stealing with government money.” Faber noted that he himself was the victim of one of the many Ohio unemployment compensation claim frauds this past year, which, along with overpayments, totaled $3.6 billion.
Faber also expressed his opposition to more pandemic bailout money from the federal government.
“For the state of Ohio, our revenues went up by more than $1.2 billion in revenues,” Faber said. “When you look at the federal money coming in for the fiscal year for the state, with nearly $4 billion more than was budged the year before COVID started … We need to send a clear message to our friends in the federal government: We don’t need any more of our kids’ and grandkids’ money for a bailout at this point and to spend money on programs we don’t need.”
State Rep. Warren Davidson, R-8th District, said he also had a fraudulent unemployment claim against him.
Davidson’s two major bills of interest before the House deal with infrastructure and budget reconciliation. While most people are agreeable to building new roads and bridges and expanding rural broadband, the budget reconciliation, he argued, “not only fails on math, it fails on policy… The debt ceiling has to be there because we don’t have a surplus of revenue… the reality is that in order to pay our current obligations we have to borrow money.”
Today, the collective has grown to 700 Midwest Electric members and 35,000 electric co-op members, employees, and directors nationwide.