Author Archives: Dick Munson

A Tale of Two Utilities: One Illinois Power Provider Looks Ahead, while the Other Won’t Budge

TaleOfTwoAs a utility executive, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times. It is the age of innovation, it is the age of stagnant tradition. With a nod to Charles Dickens, it is the epoch of environmental improvement, it is the epoch of continued pollution.

Perhaps no state better represents those extremes than Illinois, where Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) in the north is considering new business models and embracing greenhouse-gas reductions, while Ameren in the south is rejecting change and virtually anything related to clean energy.

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Posted in Energy Efficiency, Utility Business Models| Leave a comment

New Tool Measures Smart Grid Benefits. A Game Changer for Our Power Industry?

SmartGridWe all know exercise is good for our hearts and bodies, and who doesn’t enjoy stepping on the scale after weeks of good workouts to confirm progress was made?

In a way, power companies are just like people.

As they begin to invest in smart meters and other grid modernization efforts, utilities want to know how well they do. Can they measure success and prove to investors and regulators they’re making smart decisions?

To that effect, Illinois’ largest electricity provider, Commonwealth Edison, is the first in the country to adopt a new tool that calculates clean air benefits from investments such as advanced meters.

Beyond bringing tangible rewards to ComEd, this little-noticed milestone can have major implications for the entire power industry.
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Posted in Grid Modernization, Utility Business Models| Leave a comment

Ohio Regulators Attempt to Keep FirstEnergy Afloat with New Subsidy Proposal

SmokestacksMy head feels whipsawed by the wildly changing proposals to bail out FirstEnergy’s uneconomic and dirty power plants. The latest development in this ongoing saga occurred June 29, when the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff recommended a new subsidy solution for the utility behemoth: $131 million per year over three years.

While this proposal is, blessedly, 90 percent less than FirstEnergy’s original $4 billion bailout proposal, it’s still an unnecessary subsidy that Ohio taxpayers should not be forced to shoulder. Hearings on whether the PUCO commissioners should approve the deal begin today.

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Federal Regulators Should (Again) Block FirstEnergy’s Sneaky Attempts to Evade Oversight

FirstEnergyChaseAkronOhio wikipedia croppedIt’s not usually a good idea to dis federal regulators. FirstEnergy doesn’t seem to care.

Almost two months ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) ruled against the Ohio-based utility giant’s request to bail out its uneconomic power plants. FirstEnergy then tweaked its proposal to obtain the same result but, according to its CEO, “without the need for…FERC approval.”

To “FERC-proof” its bailout scheme, FirstEnergy now tries to mockingly call its subsidy a “surcharge” rather than a “power purchase agreement (PPA).” Put another way, by simply changing the wording of the original bailout, the utility’s sleight of hand aims to skirt federal oversight.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is joining the Electric Power Supply Association (EPSA) and others in asking FERC to overturn this end-run attempt – something we’re calling FirstEnergy’s “Virtual PPA.” It’s virtually the same as the original rotten deal, and it’s just as bad for customers, clean air, and markets.  Read More »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio| Comments are closed

Rubber-Stamp Regulators: Ohio Gives FirstEnergy Another Go-Ahead

approved-pixabayAt least in theory, government officials are supposed to monitor electric utilities and ensure they do not abuse their monopoly power. For more than a century, these independent regulators have protected customers from unfair, above-market prices and provided a check on giant corporations.

That social contract is being tested in Ohio.

In an unprecedented move, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) today allowed FirstEnergy to seek a new power plant bailout – a full day before opponents were to offer their objections. So, without listening to the arguments against the deal, the PUCO rubberstamped the utility’s request for a rehearing.

Unfortunately, this is not the PUCO’s first rubber-stamping. FirstEnergy’s original proposal would have forced customers to pay $4 billion to subsidize the utility’s old and dirty power plants, which could no longer compete in the market. That proposal was almost laughable since the power plants were not needed, and certainly not at such a high price – other companies proposed to offer the same amount of electricity at significantly lower prices. Read More »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio| Read 3 Responses

A Bailout by Any Other Name: FirstEnergy Still Trying to Stick It to Ohio Customers

handshake_iStock_000000409076_L3You have to give some credit to FirstEnergy. It does hire creative lawyers.

After the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) effectively killed the utility giant’s $4-billion bailout request to keep its uneconomic power plants online, those expensive attorneys figured they could redefine a few words and restore the subsidies. In an attempt to thwart FERC’s decision, the utility is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to consider “modifications” to its bailout plan. However, these changes will still result in increased customer bills at the rate of $4 billion.

For almost two years, FirstEnergy argued it needed to prop up its uneconomic generators with “power purchase agreements” (PPA) between the utility and its affiliate companies. After federal regulators declared such transactions were illegal because they distorted competitive markets, FirstEnergy lawyers are now saying, “Just kidding!” Instead of using the term “PPAs,” the utility now prefers “surcharges,” skirting FERC’s ruling and hoping it won’t notice there’s been no real change. Read More »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio, Utility Business Models| Comments are closed
  • Director, Midwest Clean Energy
    Dick Munson is EDF's Director, Midwest Clean Energy, where he works to advance the use of clean energy in Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Dick currently focuses on creating new financing opportunities for efficiency, ensuring smart meters provide the real-time data that will enable consumers to cut energy and pollution, and building the business case for efficiency within commercial buildings.

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