FirstEnergy lines up on the wrong side
A legislative committee this week is meeting to study whether consumers benefit from Ohio clean-energy standards, which lawmakers put on hold last summer.
Spoiler alert: Consumers do benefit. Self-reported studies from Ohio’s four major utilities show that consumers have already saved over $1 billion.
But FirstEnergy Corp., the utility whose lobbying efforts succeeded in pushing the freeze through the legislature last year, was in the capitol last week to ask the legislative committee to recommend the clean-energy standards’ repeal. Policy Matters Ohio reported this year that the clean-energy freeze would hurt Ohio electric consumers.
This year, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission shut down attempts by two Ohio utilities to shift operating losses from their deregulated plants onto Ohio consumers, likely forestalling a similar plan by FirstEnergy. FirstEnergy has argued in that case that its coal and nuclear plants should benefit from a consumer subsidy, even as the company has maintained that renewables should receive no public investment. But consumers have balked, and community groups are cropping up to expose the company’s business practices.
The math is in favor of the efficiency and renewables investment: consumers have already saved over $1 billion from reduced electric waste; while FirstEnergy’s coal bailout would cost a likely $3 billion over its 15-year life. To account for the inconsistency, FirstEnergy has argued that renewables cannot reliably substitute for energy produced by outmoded coal plants, and their retirement could destabilize the grid. But PJM Interconnection, the company that manages the power grid for Ohio and 12 other states, says renewables can compete, and that FirstEnergy’s concern is unfounded.
Ohio needs a comprehensive energy security plan. Ohioans understand that renewables can and must be our energy future. The state should restore the energy efficiency and renewables standards and put us back on track to sustainable energy.