How would you feel if every month, you received a notice from the state ordering you to make a contribution, perhaps several dollars, to a wind farm or solar energy installation? Most people wouldn't like it one bit.
But if you live in Ohio and pay electric bills, something very much like that is going on.
Instead of having the courage to force consumers directly to make the donations, however, state officials used a back-door approach. In 2008, the General Assembly approved and then-Gov. Ted Strickland signed into law requirements that Ohio utilities obtain part of the electricity they sell from "alternative" sources such as solar arrays and wind farms.
By 2025, at least 12.5 percent of the power sold in the state must come from alternative-energy sources, according to the law. At least half of that electricity must come from projects based in the Buckeye State.
Of course, the electric companies are not expected to do this out of the goodness of their hearts. It costs them more to buy power from, say, a wind farm than a coal-fired power plant. The additional expenses are passed on to consumers, who already have coughed up millions of dollars needlessly.
One research group, the Beacon Hill Institute, has calculated that between 2016-25, the mandate will increase Ohioans' electric bills by $8.6 billion.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, has introduced a bill that would reduce some of the burden. His bill would not eliminate the mandate, but would allow utilities to buy "alternative" power from outside the state.
Opponents are exceedingly upset, as you might imagine. The mandate has been a pot of gold for companies in the alternative energy business who otherwise would not be able to make it in the marketplace.
Some of the anger has been over a perception Seitz's bill would kill energy efficiency incentives also included in the 2008 law. Obviously, those could be separated from the alternative energy mandate.
The only thing wrong with Seitz's bill is that it does not go far enough. Ohio lawmakers should kill the alternative energy mandate entirely. Buckeye State homeowners and businesses should be allowed to buy the cheapest electricity utilities can provide.