Clean Energy Bill Heard - "All Options On The Table"
"All options on the table is what we're going for," responded Representative Jill York to testimony provided by House Bill 239 sponsor Mary Lou Marzian and KySEA members in support of the bill.
Representative Leslie Combs, chair of the House Tourism Development and Energy committee where the bill was presented for a discussion only hearing today, set a positive tone for bill testimony in her opening statement. "I like to consider myself open-minded and I am open to all ideas that are for the benefit of the people."
Jeff Chapman-Crane, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth member and a constituent of Combs from Letcher County, joined a room full of people that attended the hearing to support the bill's discussion. He praised the chairwoman's efforts after the hearing was over. "I was pleased that she was willing to hear this bill and it is a good sign for any legislator from Eastern Kentucky to do this. I complement her leadership."
Pictured (left to right): Archie Fields and Jeff Chapman-Crane
If enacted, House Bill 239 - the Clean Energy Opportunity Act - would establish gradual renewable and efficiency targets that utilities would meet over time and long-term renewable energy price guarantees for renewable energy producers. The bill would also require investments to improve housing efficiency for low-income families.
Above (left to right): Jason Bailey, Jim King, Matt Partymiller, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian
Jim King, Executive Director of the Federation for Appalachian Housing Enterprises, testified about why affordable housing groups across the state support the bill:
"The current course of energy in the Commonwealth is a threat to families in need of affordable housing. If energy continues to rise at the course it is rising now, assuming no changes, the average utility bill will double by 2015. This is a high burden for low-income families - the same families that live in the homes that are the biggest energy users. People are facing an 'eat or heat' situation."
King said that the bill would improve energy affordability for the families that FAHE and other affordable housing groups serve and create local jobs in Appalachian Kentucky.
Matt Partymiller, Operating Manager of Solar Energy Solutions, told legislators just how many jobs would be created and how much money Kentucky could attract if this bill were enacted. He stated that implementing a state REPS is a signal to national and international renewable energy production and manufacturing companies that Kentucky is making in a long-term commitment to a new energy market. And this signal will bring jobs.
Partymiller noted that millions of dollar in contracts for renewable energy installation in Kentucky were awarded to out-of-state companies in 2010 and expects to see the same thing happen this year. He also pointed out that due to commitments to renewable energy that exist at the state level in Ohio and within the TVA utility service area in Tennessee, both states had attracted billions in manufacturing investments in the last two years.
Right: A slide from Matt Partymiller's presentation showing a solar installation at the University of Kentucky
"When you look at the jobs we've lost in construction and manufacturing, this is an opportunity to give some of these workers jobs," bill sponsor Mary Lou Marzian said.
If we do nothing? "We will continue to see jobs going to other states," Partymiller said. "For all the installations I have done, I have bought parts from OH, IN and TN. It's unfortunate that we don't see the development of these products here in Kentucky."
A couple of committee members had already seen the benefits of renewable manufacturing investments in their districts. Representatives Harmon, McKee, Kim King, Martha Jane King and York pointed out connections they had in their own districts to the issues raised by the speakers.
"I like to brag on Corning in my district." Rep. Kim King said. "They are now making glass for solar panels." A glass and ceramic making company, Corning Inc. is headquartered in Harrodsburg, Ky.
"I am excited for you all to be here," echoed Rep. Martha Jane King. "Hemlock Semiconductor, which makes a raw material for solar panels, is just over the county line from us. Their $2.5 billion dollar investment is spilling over into our counties and bringing jobs and investment. I think we need to look to the future."
Hemlock Semiconductor opened up operations in Clarksville, TN in January of 2009 and is expected to create 900 jobs when fully operational. They were attracted to Clarksville in part due because TVA, the electric utility that serves the area, offers 10-year price guarantees for renewable energy production. These price guarantees - similar to one of the policy mechanisms contained in House Bill 239 - are driving up the use of solar panels in the region.
York said that she had not realized the manufacturing job potential of enacting this type of legislation prior to the hearing. She also said she appreciated the tone set by Rep. Combs and Marzian during the proceedings.
"All options on the table is what we are going for. When we lose the adversarial nature, we can really look at what is on the table."
Please consider calling to thank Representative Combs and House Leadership for allowing this discussion to take place.
Call: 1 (800) 372-7181
Message: "Thank you for promoting good discussion about House Bill 239 and the tremendous benefits that clean energy can bring to Kentuckians. Let's work together towards a favorable vote on it next year!"