(UR) Ohio — A massive slush fund has been created for dirty energy in Ohio using FirstEnergy customers’ money. Ohio utilities — Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating, and Toledo Edison — have announced that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) just approved ‘modifications’ to Powering Ohio’s Progress, the company’s comprehensive Electric Security Plan (ESP). What this really means is that customers of the coal- and nuclear-invested FirstEnergy will pay out approximately $204 million over three years in a massive bailout for a company which refused to invest in clean energy.
The company had just announced the closure of four separate coal plants in order to stay afloat after heavily investing in coal and nuclear power. The company did not follow the growing trend of supplying its customers energy with solar, hydro, and wind power. A recent filing suggests that the company requested an $8.5 billion bailout in order not to go under after making dirty-energy investments that went sour.
FirstEnergy’s previous bailout proposal — which PUCO had approved — likely violates federal safeguards concerning transactions between public utilities and their unregulated affiliates.
Instead of closing their doors, customers will now pay for FirstEnergy’s mistakes with higher utility bills, and no ‘modifications’ to the grid, which is antiquated and in need of major repairs.
Customers, competitors, consumer groups, and environmental advocates have objected emphatically to all versions of the FirstEnergy plan, saying that they amount to unlawful subsidies and are simply a “bailout.”
Referring to the original $8.5 billion bailout request, which was much larger than the $204 million to be paid by customers, Dick Munson at the Environmental Defense Fund said,
“It’s simply a greedy plea for Ohio consumers to pay $8.5 billion so the company can recover from its bad business decisions.”
However, any amount of ‘bailout’ money for a company that made bad investment decisions and also failed the environment when solar and wind has become so cheap is blasphemous.
“In this long-awaited and complicated decision, PUCO missed a critical opportunity to seriously focus FirstEnergy on the more diversified, cleaner energy future that tens of thousands of customers wrote the commission asking for,” said Dan Sawmiller, senior representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Ohio.
While fossil fuel and nuclear energy advocates can argue over which of the two energy sources is more dangerous, the entire world seems to be moving to cleaner, more sustainable forms. More than half the $286 billion invested in wind, solar, and other renewables occurred in emerging markets like China, India, and Brazil — so even a state like Ohio could stand to change its energy focus.
FirstEnergy owns 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland, and New York. With this latest $204 million forced bailout, that customer base may shrink considerably.
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