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Utilities Try to Push Coal, Nuclear Costs Onto Ohio Ratepayers

Kroger Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are joining a cluster of manufacturers in opposing two Ohio energy companies’ attempts to shift the long-term cost of their coal and nuclear operations onto the state’s ratepayers.

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“FirstEnergy and Columbus-based AEP both are seeking long-term power purchase agreements with their affiliate companies that they say would make sure the plants wouldn’t retire prematurely. The plants aren’t competitive in Ohio’s unregulated marketplace,” Columbus Business First reports.

“FirstEnergy’s proposal before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has gathered national media attention in recent weeks centered around a common narrative: The coal-reliant utilities of the past are struggling with a changing, unregulated power market.”

The Ohio Manufacturers Association and Industrial Energy Users-Ohio are both fighting the utilities’ proposals.

“Notably, other opposition is coming from the group responsible for ‘promoting a robust, competitive and nondiscriminatory electric power market’ in the regional grid that includes AEP and FirstEnergy territories,” Knox writes. “PJM Interconnection is the 13-state grid operator for states in the Midwest and Northeast, including Ohio. Its goal is to ensure reliability—and keeping plants open and reliable is one of the main reasons utilities give for their proposals.”

PJM representative Joseph Bowring testified that “AEP has not demonstrated and cannot demonstrate why customers should bear these costs and take these risks, if a well-informed generation owner is not willing to do so.”

In one of the national media stories to which Knox refers, Vox.com climate specialist David Roberts reports that “this Ohio utility has an innovative plan to save coal power: force customers to buy it.” Rather than shutting down aging coal and nuclear plants that are no longer cost-competitive, “the company is asking Ohio regulators to force customers to buy the plants’ power for the next 15 years, an enormous subsidy that would ensure FirstEnergy shareholders a steady, predictable profit even as its ratepayers get hosed.”

FirstEnergy also led the fight to roll back Ohio’s clean energy standard and cancelled energy efficiency programs that saved customers more than $2 for every $1 invested, Roberts reports.