Energy Exchange

New federal tax law is a boon for electric utilities – another reason not to bail out Ohio’s coal and nuclear plants


Environmental Defense Fund and other environmental groups submitted comments [PDF] to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on the federal tax reform, and why the Commission should reconsider utilities’ requests to increase rates to help prop up their old coal and nuclear plants. The groups suggest the utilities should pass the savings back to customers and, in addition, consider using some of the funds to modernize the electric grid and benefit customers.

For the past few years, Ohio’s electric utilities have asked state lawmakers and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to bail out their old coal and nuclear plants. The storyline is, the power plants are losing money in the competitive wholesale market, so the utilities want customers to subsidize the losses and allow the plants to stay open.

To keep old plants running is throwing good money after bad. And the new federal tax law will give utilities a huge bonanza anyway, so the requested subsidies are even more unnecessary.

Tax breaks and bailouts

The new federal tax law is a jackpot for electric utilities. Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in late December, reducing the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. For the regulated businesses, the tax cut should benefit customers via lower electricity bills. But for the utilities’ unregulated businesses, the tax cut will benefit the utilities’ shareholders. Read More »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio / Read 3 Responses

Give Ohio a real chance to win the Amazon HQ2 bid by keeping state clean energy standards intact


In 2016, Ohio lawmakers tried to gut the state’s clean energy standards, which had created thousands of jobs and saved Ohioans over $1 billion on their electricity bills. They almost succeeded, until Gov. John Kasich stood up for Ohio’s clean energy economy and vetoed the harmful bill.

Now state legislators are back with a new bill – House Bill 114 – that has the same agenda: Destroy Ohio’s renewable and energy efficiency standards.

By requiring electric utilities to lower energy-use and sell increasing amounts of renewable electricity, these standards send a signal to the investment community that Ohio is open for business. And businesses want clean energy – Amazon, for example, frequently decides where to locate its data centers and other facilities based, in part, on the availability of clean energy. The internet giant is currently looking for a site for its second headquarters (or HQ2), and Columbus, Ohio has just been named one of the top 20 finalists.

If Ohio legislators are serious about winning the estimated 50,000 jobs associated with Amazon’s new HQ2, the lawmakers should maintain the clean energy standards and reject House Bill 114. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency, Ohio / Comments are closed

One step forward, one step back for Ohio policy to fairly compensate solar customers

Rooftop solar provides many benefits to the electric grid, like having no fuel costs and increasing electric grid resiliency – the ability to quickly recover from problems.

So how can utilities recognize these benefits and reward people who install solar at their homes and businesses? A popular way is through net metering, which allows customers to send the electricity from their solar panels to the power grid and receive a credit on their electricity bill.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently updated the state’s net metering policy, with some positive and some negative changes. Following the lead of the Ohio Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) helped usher in these updates, and we’ll work to make sure solar customers are compensated fully and fairly. Read More »

Posted in Ohio, Solar Energy / Comments are closed

These Ohio customers pay for their smart meters, and they should have access to the benefits

Studies show that customers with access to energy-use data can save up to 18 percent on their energy bills every month. Based on a typical monthly bill of $120, households could save nearly $360 every year – a substantial chunk of change.

This type of energy data is gathered by advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), specifically smart meters. Yet collecting the data isn’t enough to see those savings – customers need access to the information and new products and services, like cell phone apps, to help understand it.

That’s why Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), along with our partners Ohio Environmental Council and Mission:data, recommend that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio require Duke Energy to release customers’ energy-use information, specifically through the implementation of the Green Button Connect My Data program.

Duke is currently asking Ohio for $143 million to replace its smart meters. The utility wants its Ohio customers to foot the bill for the new meters without giving them access to their meter data. Sharing the data would give customers a chance to enjoy significant potential savings from their investment in AMI. Sharing anonymized electricity data with third-parties would enable businesses to develop new products and services, too. Read More »

Posted in Data Access, Ohio / Comments are closed

Why We Still Need America’s Nuclear Power Plants — At Least for Now

Today’s American nuclear power industry is in a state of upheaval. Four new, large-scale nuclear power plants are under construction in the United States, helped by large federal subsidies. All are being built by Westinghouse, and all have faced massive cost overruns and delays. Westinghouse’s parent company, Toshiba, recently posted a $6 billion loss due to Westinghouse’s nuclear woes. (For context, that loss is half a billion more than Toshiba spent to buy Westinghouse a decade ago.) Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection on March 29.

Westinghouse’s bankruptcy shines a spotlight on nuclear power’s role as an electricity source – currently providing about 17 percent of our electricity in the U.S. – and raises issues concerning whether we can count on low-carbon electricity from nuclear power. The Energy Information Administration projects nuclear power’s share of electricity generation will decline slightly through 2040, but these projections don’t reflect current trends.

Existing plants face challenging economics

Nuclear plants have long been very expensive to build, and the continued low price of natural gas has only increased cost pressure. Many nuclear plants are losing money, leading utilities to consider retiring them. Total nuclear capacity is declining, and will continue to decline in the near future as plant retirements exceed the capacity of Westinghouse’s Vogtle and Summer plants, expected to come online in 2019-2020. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Illinois, New York, Utility Business Models / Read 7 Responses

Who Pays for the Hidden Costs of Coal?

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is still deciding whether to approve bailouts for FirstEnergy’s and Dayton Power & Light’s (DP&L) old, inefficient coal plants. The Ohio-based utilities want their customers to shoulder the costs of keeping these unprofitable coal plants running.

Coal plants aren’t cheap to operate. And as natural gas, wind energy, and solar energy have become increasingly affordable in recent years, coal can’t compete anymore. Moreover, subsidizing coal plants is not just a matter of higher electricity bills. We need to take into account the hidden costs of coal, which we all have to pay. Read More »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio / Read 1 Response