Energy Exchange

Dear FirstEnergy, America doesn’t need your coal plants

Why do grocers mark down the price of asparagus in the spring, or strawberries in the summer? Because they’re in season and stores have excess supply, and they need to increase demand by cutting prices. The lower prices are a sign, or “price signal,” of excess supply, and the grocers are following the economic law of supply and demand.

Electricity markets follow the law of supply and demand, too. Falling electricity prices are a price signal that we have more power plants than we need. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which oversees our nation’s electric grid, reports on wholesale electricity prices, and their latest State of the Markets report is an eye-opener.

The report shows that we’re retiring old coal plants at a fast clip, but we’re adding new natural gas plants at an even faster clip – causing power prices to plummet. In PJM, the largest regional electricity market in the country, 1.9 GW of coal plants closed in 2017 as 2.8 GW of new natural gas plants were added. Read More »

Posted in Electricity Pricing, FirstEnergy, Illinois, Ohio / Comments are closed

Will the Ohio Supreme Court shut down FirstEnergy’s bailout once and for all?

For years, FirstEnergy has been seeking a bailout for its uneconomic coal and nuclear plants. The Ohio-based utility finally got its wish in late 2016, when the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved more than $600 million in customer-funded subsidies.

The money was intended to help improve the credit ratings of FirstEnergy and its parent company, FirstEnergy Corp. But the parent company’s supposed financial hardship is not the responsibility of the utility’s customers, nor is it under the PUCO’s purview.

In their brief to the Ohio Supreme Court, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Ohio Environmental Council (OEC), and Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) explain why the bailout is unreasonable and should be overturned – which would send a clear signal to other subsidy-seeking coal companies across the country. Read More »

Posted in FirstEnergy, Ohio / Read 4 Responses

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

BLOG UPDATE – FEBRUARY 16, 2018

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

BLOG UPDATE – JANUARY 19, 2018

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