Ohio regulators approve controversial FirstEnergy, AEP rate plans

Consumer group says customers will pay more
Posted at 1:59 PM, Mar 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-05 06:41:14-04

State regulators have approved a controversial electric rate plan that could have FirstEnergy's customers paying more.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio voted unanimously in favor of the plan, which will have customers subsidizing two older, underperforming plants, the Davis Besse Nuclear Plant and the W. H. Sammis Coal Plant, which were both hit hard by declining cheap natural gas prices in Ohio's open energy market.

The Ohio Consumers' Counsel blasted the deal. The agency estimated the rate change would cost FirstEnergy's 1.9 million customers about $800-$1,100 each over the eight-year span of the deal.

“Today’s rulings continue an unwelcome trend of government intervention in competitive markets, at the urging of the state’s electric utilities," the Consumers' Counsel Bruce Weston said in a statement.

"As a result, several million Ohioans will pay a lot more for electricity than the market prices intended by the state legislature."

FirstEnergy said their own estimates show initial increases of a few dollars a month, but said customers should eventually save $560 million, as natural gas prices increase.

“Prices go up and down and to think that gas prices are going to be low forever, I think is a mistake," FirstEnergy Vice President of Rates and Regulatory Affairs Bill Ridmann said.
“I think our customers really see the value of keeping these plants operational at this time, of really low gas prices.”
The deal guarantees profits and keeps some older less competitive plants afloat. 

Regulators also approved a similar deal for Columbus-based American Electric Power, which was modeled after FirstEnergy's plan. 

The Consumers' Counsel said it will appeal to federal regulators to examine the deal. The PUCO will also take appeals for the next 30 days before making a final ruling, at which point appeals can be made to the Ohio Supreme Court.


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