Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Maria Energia Interview: Ohio Lt. Governor Lee Fisher

Due to a scheduling crunch, Steve Harvey from Cleantegrity and Newstreamz.com and I tag-teamed an interview with Ohio’s Lt. Governor Lee Fisher about renewable energy policy:

Maria Energia: Congratulations on recently passing the advanced energy portfolio standard (AEPS)! Since 87 percent of your electricity currently comes from coal, how were you all able to come together and pass legislation that will so dramatically change Ohio's electricity mix?

Lt Governor: Credit goes to the governor and energy advisor for this effort. They built a powerful coalition of the environmental and renewable energy sectors, the manufacturing sector, small business and labor. I think developing a broad-based coalition at the outset was key.

The only part of the coalition that I think it's fair to say was probably not involved was the utility industry. But in fairness to them they certainly were willing to engage in spirited debate. I think regular communication to coalition members was key to getting the legislation passed. Also, it had bipartisan support in the legislature (we have a Republican Senate and a Republican House).

Steve Harvey: Was there any contention on the energy efficiency piece [requiring utilities to achieve energy savings of 22.5 percent by 2025 and reduce peak energy demand one percent in 2009, then .75 percent per year through 2018]?

Lt. Governor Fisher: It was very important to have energy efficiency as part of the AEPS. We had pretty broad-based support on this and leading that effort was Duke Energy. In fact I think their CEO has described energy efficiency as "the fifth fuel."...So while there was a general feeling that expanding and diversifying our energy portfolio was important, conservation and energy efficiency was indispensable in achieving our success and our self efficiency.

Steve Harvey: What are some of the best practices to help start-ups or new energy companies get going? Is there an infrastructure beyond taxes?

Lt. Governor Fisher: We have Edison centers in Ohio to help companies be more entrepreneurial and provide mentoring and coaching. We partner with nonprofits who have entrepreneurs in residence and who provide coaching and assistance to any young company in the state. Many are early-stage manufacturing companies but we’re starting to see more renewable energy ones.

Maria Energia: Do you think renewable energy can help revitalize small, rural communities in Ohio and the Midwest? How?

Lt. Governor Fisher: Ohio’s manufacturing and agriculture base, as well as our strategic location and well-built infrastructure, gives us a home court advantage when it comes to growing and attraction renewable energy industry. We are number four in railroads, number four in highways, we have a huge amount of freight that goes along Lake Erie and the Ohio River…and our number one industry is agriculture. All of this intersects well with biofuels, wind, solar. Add access to the largest bodies of fresh water in the world and you have a unique advantage. On top of that, we’re making economic stimulus investments, so rural, urban and suburban areas stand to benefit.

Maria Energia: What’s your favorite renewable energy?

Lt. Governor Fisher: My favorite color is green. So any renewable energy that's considered "green" is my favorite one.

Photo credit: Ohio.gov

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