At the recent Greater Cleveland Partnership Summit, Cuyahoga County Department of Sustainability director Mike Foley championed the benefits of renewable, electricity-based energy and the danger to our current electrical grid in one breath.
“The grid is going to become more and more stressed in the future for businesses, for residents, for consumers,” he says. “As electrification of vehicles occurs, as electrification of heating occurs, there’s going to be a lot more demand on the local electrical grid that everyone is going to experience.”
Of course Northeast Ohio’s electric utilities need to be cleaned up in other ways, too. Attention-grabbing headlines of massive bribery scandals plague FirstEnergy, and Cleveland Public Power is notorious for shutoffs.
The energy industry is still embroiled in these issues; nonetheless Foley sets his sights on sustainable forward movement for the region. Part of his solution: a micro-grid system that would protect individual areas in the event of grid failure in other parts of the region.
In like-fashion, several Northeast Ohio businesses are seeking preemptive, collaborative solutions to the changing energy landscape — a means of giving back to the system — as well.
In 2021, Lubrizol, who makes specialty chemicals for the transportation, industrial and commercial markets, hit two birds with one stone as its Avon Lake facility had nonhazardous industrial waste converted into compressed natural gas before being siphoned back into the local grid. In doing so, the company diverted 185,000 pounds of waste from landfills.
“Energy can be generated from all kinds of sources,” says Lubrizol chief sustainability officer Beth Grove. “Our Avon Lake plant takes waste and a partner puts it through this very nerdy process called anaerobic digestion. And what that does is it breaks down the waste and it generates energy, it generates renewable energy. So, even from a waste standpoint, there are opportunities that might not be part of what you think are there, but that distributor now is able to source renewable energy from Lubrizol.”
Right now, Ohio is tangling with another source of renewable energy: hydrogen, a low-carbon alternative to greenhouse gas-emitting fuels.
In January, the Great Lakes Clean Hydrogen coalition — formed in 2022 with companies like Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., Linde and GE Aerospace, along with energy offset group Energy Harbor and the University of Toledo — received the green light from the U.S. Department of Energy to submit an application for the organization’s proposed hydrogen distribution plan.
If all goes well, the low-carbon fuel would decarbonize the steel, glass, aviation and transit industries via pipeline and road transmission to the Great Lakes region. The proposal pegs the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, as its clean energy hub, with an investment cost expected to exceed $2 billion.
In neighboring Randolph County, Indiana, just over the state line, Cliffs has also committed to a 15-year purchase agreement for 180 megawatts of the 200-MW Headwaters III Wind Farm. Current estimates predict the farm will be up and running by 2025, which would provide “another step towards achieving Cleveland-Cliffs’ emission reduction goal of 25% by 2030, and will advance our portfolio of renewable energy initiatives that are additive to the power grid,” says Lourenco Goncalves, Chairman, President and CEO of Cleveland-Cliffs.
As the largest supplier of automotive steel in North America, Cleveland-Cliffs and other Northeast Ohio companies take a vested interest in cleaner energy, envisioning a brighter future for the company and Cleveland alike.
“We are very proud of our position on the Great Lakes, and we rely on the Great Lakes,” says Traci Forrester, executive vice president of environmental and sustainability at Cleveland-Cliffs. “We want to see them thrive and survive.”