Big energy gets its way with lawmakers, but not the PUCO
Update: the Public Utilities Commission voted on March 31, 2016 to allow an eight year consumer subsidy for both FirstEnergy and American Electric Power.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in late February said no dice to a plan by Columbus-based American Electric Power to have Ohio consumers bail out two inefficient, dirty plants. AEP sought permission to have these plants bypass the wholesale power market they sell to under the 1999 deregulation law, and sell instead to their own utilities – at a cost premium that they would pass on to you.
AEP and FirstEnergy Corp. asked the PUCO to force consumers to subsidize power plants that are too old to produce energy at a market rate. Opponents came out in force against FirstEnergy’s proposal and told the commission enough.
Here’s the rub with FirstEnergy’s bid: The company lobbied against Ohio’s 2008 clean-energy law, and the legislature froze the renewable and efficiency standards last summer. Meanwhile, FirstEnergy doubled down on coal generation through a 2011 merger with Allegheny Power – a decision that FirstEnergy knew was bad corporate citizenship in light of the clean-energy standards. The utility soon found it was a bad business plan, too. After closing eight unprofitable plants, FirstEnergy came to the PUCO to ask for a bailout for two more.
Policy Matters reported on the PUCO case, and you came to public hearings in Akron, Toledo and Cleveland to say no to a bailout for the Sammis coal plant, and the Davis-Besse nuclear plant. These deals would cost Ohio families and businesses $3.1 billion, and set us back on energy efficiency.
The PUCO saw through the ploy in the AEP case. A decision on FirstEnergy is due out this spring.
Meanwhile, repercussions from Ohio’s misguided freeze of clean-energy standards are just starting to be felt. A recent report by the Center for American Progress describes in rich detail the economic fallout. “There is mounting evidence that they are already harming Ohioans by causing investment, employment, and business to drain from the state,” the report says.