A recent report from Ohio’s Energy Future Tour, an eight-month tour discussing energy efficiency across six Ohio cities, has provided promise for the future of sustainable energy in Ohio.
The report sent a clear message to Ohio policymakers on the subject of clean energy by outlining a list of policy recommendations, some of which include reinstating energy efficiency standards and developing a financially reasonable plan that complies with the Clean Power Plan to lower carbon emissions.
“We intended to be, and hopefully are, a resource for policymakers who will be looking at these issues,” tour spokeswoman Jane Harf said. “We want to say, ‘Here is what’s happening in the state and on the grounds, and here’s how people feel about it.’”
The eight-month tour, designed by a coalition of businesses, trade associations, nonprofit organizations and local governments, visited Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, Cincinnati and Athens to give presentations and spur discussion on energy-related issues.
A large part of the tour’s focus was spent on engaging with audiences and hearing about people’s personal experiences with energy efficiency throughout Ohio.
“The tour gave our communities the opportunity to hear about clean energy benefits and current efforts to pursue them,” Ohio Hospital Association spokesman John Palmer said. “Many industries and organizations are pursuing strategies and this was a comprehensive way to promote that publically and to continue building an important dialogue.”
During the tour’s stop in Columbus, audience members asked the tour what they could do to help. This spurred the creation of a “pledge” declaring support for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The pledge garnered more than 10,000 signatures.
“The people of Ohio want this,” Harf said. “Are legislators going to be responsive to, what we believe, is clear public sentiment? That remains to be seen.”
Many of the tour’s discussions concerned energy in hospitals. Health care costs are the second most energy intensive sector in the United States; they also total eight percent of the country’s energy consumption and seven percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the tour’s report. This has stimulated many hospitals to begin taking steps toward cleaner energy in hospitals.
“Hospitals are very intensive in terms of energy usage, but the energy budget is less than two percent of the total budget because of the high cost of labor and technology,” Palmer said. “The purpose of OHA’s energy efficiency work is to provide hospital leaders with information.”
Healthier Hospitals Ohio and OHA both supported the tour, providing several energy case studies from various hospitals in Ohio. They found that Cleveland Clinic has conducted pilot projects that are already saving $250,000 annually in energy costs, according to the tour’s report. ProMedica Wildwood Orthopedic and Spine Hospital has installed a heat and power system that has already met energy and greenhouse reduction goals within the first two years of its use.
The Ohio Senate’s Energy Mandates Study committee will be publishing its report Wednesday, which Harf hopes will include their opinions going forward with energy efficiency.
Despite any potential setbacks in the legislature, Harf has made it clear the work of Ohio’s Energy Future Tour will not be dismissed.
“Whatever happens in the legislature, we aren’t going away,” she said. “We want people to stay engaged — we want to be a vehicle through which they can have a say and have a voice.”