Gongwer News Service Ohio.  The interest is so great surrounding soon-to-begin discussions among a new House energy task force that chairman Rep. Bill Seitz has already begun adding new members to the table.

Rep. Seitz earlier this month announced the 17-member task force – one of five House ad hoc panels intended to study pressing public policy subject areas.

“I guess I should take it as a sign of interest the original number of members has now ballooned…because everybody wants to be part of the task force,” Rep. Seitz said in an interview. “Which is an indication of how important energy is.”

From utility companies to advocates, the task force members already represented a broad swath of the energy landscape. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, September 14, 2017)

New members as of Monday included Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta), Rob Kelter of the Environmental Law and Policy Group, Ryan Augsburger of the Ohio Manufacturer’s Association, Charles Willoughby of American Municipal Power and Chris Allwein of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy.

Additionally, former Public Utilities Chairman Todd Snitchler, who was set to be the Alliance for Energy Choice’s voice on the panel, withdrew after his recent hiring by the American Petroleum Institute. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, September 19, 2017)

Mr. Snitchler said he has requested Dynegy Executive Vice President Dean Ellis fill that seat, although Rep. Seitz said he is sorry to lose Mr. Snitchler given his standing and experience in the industry.

Rep. Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said there’s no set timeline in which he expects the task force to conclude its work nor is there a set number of meetings. He said it is his goal to talk less about pending legislative proposals and more about the scope of Ohio’s energy future.

“If it’s already the subject of bills being heard, I don’t see any particular reason to serve as a debating society on that,” he said. “We already have a process to deal with that.”

One exception might be a bill (HB 247) from Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield) that would eliminate Electric Security Plans and undo several ratemaking laws critics call anti-consumer. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, May 26, 2017)

Rep. Seitz said discussion of that bill is likely at the inaugural meeting – set for 1 p.m. Wednesday on the Riffe Center’s 31st floor – along with an update from the Public Utilities Commission on its PowerForward proceeding. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, July 28, 2017)

Members of the group, meanwhile, are hoping to emerge from the discussion with a better idea of the state’s long term energy future. That’s according to interviews with several members of the task force.

“We’re just looking to go in and have a good discussion with everyone at the table about energy policy, what it’s currently doing and what it should be doing for our state and for our citizens,” said Sarah Spence, director of government affairs for the Ohio Environmental Council.

Shawn Nelson, who will represent the Retail Energy Supply Association on the panel, said he appreciates the care that went into ensuring a wide cross section of stakeholders are represented. Many of the members are regulars of the Statehouse energy scene who have worked with or against each other in the past.

“Sometimes we agree on things and sometimes we don’t but they’re all good people who know what they’re talking about and I think it lends to the credibility of the group at large,” Mr. Nelson said.

Shawn Bennett, president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, said any energy-intensive state needs a comprehensive energy policy. Part of that, he said, should be common sense regulation.

“We have an opportunity here for our OOGA members to produce low cost energy and create a feedstock that will create a renaissance like we haven’t seen in decades,” he said. “Being an Ohioan, I look at Ohio as a manufacturing state. If we want to encourage more growth, low cost energy is the way to get there.”

Energy, he said, is the most expensive cost prospective businesses face when moving into Ohio.

“It’s recognizing the need,” Mr. Bennett said. “If we don’t understand what we have, what our needs are as a state and the resources we have how are we supposed to attract new businesses to the state?”

Mr. Nelson said he hopes consideration will be given to competitive aspect of the market.

“People are shopping more than they’re not,” he said. “I’m hoping that the competitive retail solutions are considered in addition to the myriad of other perspectives that are going to be had.”

OEC’s Ms. Spence said she’d like net metering and distributed generation to be key discussion topics.

“It’s making sure consumers have a choice when it comes to their energy, that they at least have options available to them,” she said. “We’re really just looking forward to having this discussion.”



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