December 4, 2018 614-774-6358

First Public Hearing on Ohio’s Largest Solar Energy Project Draws Diverse Support

Business, consumer advocate and environmental groups show strong support to urge the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to approve the solar project

COLUMBUS, OH – A diverse set of business, consumer advocate and environmental leaders including members of the Appalachian Ohio Solar Jobs Network discussed the need for renewable energy jobs and the economic impact of the renewable energy economy in Ohio at a press conference today. The announcement immediately preceded the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) public hearing of a proposal from American Electric Power (AEP) Ohio that would result in two massive solar projects in Highland County.

“This is the largest renewable energy project proposal in Ohio’s history,” said Dan Sawmiller, Ohio energy policy director with Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “The commitment to create new manufacturing jobs and employ military veterans provides an exciting vision for Appalachian Ohio that we are proud to support.”

“The solar development would create around 150 sustainable manufacturing jobs in Appalachian Ohio in addition to roughly 4,000 jobs created or sustained through the construction phases of the two solar projects,” said Alan Stockmeister, trustee, Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. “This solar energy project is an essential building block to the ‘new’ Appalachian Ohio economy. It is our future.”

“According to a recent AEP Ohio customer survey, more than 85 percent of residential customers and nearly 75 percent of small commercial and industrial customers think that AEP Ohio making greater use of renewable energy above what they already do is moderately important to very important,” said Evan Blumer, project director for The Appalachian Ohio Solar Jobs Network. “Customers prefer those renewables be generated in Ohio.”

The filing from AEP Ohio includes customer surveys and cost modeling. Conservative estimates provided by AEP Ohio show customers will save $218 million compared to market forecasts over the 20-year project life. AEP Ohio ran 1,000 different scenarios to evaluate costs and benefits of the projects – solar energy proved to save money in 100 percent of the scenarios evaluated.

“In working with at-risk families to find solutions to lessen the cost of their utilities, we believe renewable energy must be part of the conversation,” said Chris Allwein, director of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy. “We’ve focused on important initiatives including weatherization and making homes more energy efficient; now is the time to take a look at renewable energy projects like this one and the benefits it would provide for all consumers.”

Once the projects begin operation, they will present a great economic benefit for the state of Ohio. Construction activity will generate additional tax revenue for various local communities. The growing tax revenue from these projects can help improve the standard of living for rural Ohio through health, education and infrastructure improvements.

“Our school district works diligently to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Randy Drewyor, treasurer of Bright Local Schools. “We’re working on facility issues in order to protect taxpayer investments and look for ways to reduce operating costs. More industry and jobs brought to our area through the solar project would greatly benefit our community, schools and students.”

The initiative has aligned a diverse set of stakeholders and garnered support from the PUCO as a means to diversify Ohio’s energy portfolio while providing significant public benefit.

“This project has support from individuals who represent traditional coal, utilities, environmental groups, consumers, prominent Appalachian advocates, educators, democrats and republicans,” said Matt Evans, president, Boich Companies. “I think projects like this are an important piece of an all-of-the-above energy policy. It’s amazing to see what can be accomplished when everyone focuses on the economic benefit that this will provide our state and rural communities.”

Renewable energy is one of America’s fastest growing industries. There is a critical need to develop responsible plans for diversifying coal-dependent regions into more sustainable economies. This initiative creates a road map for bringing solar energy to the region’s homes and businesses.