Energy Exchange

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 »

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This Midwestern state is the surprising standout on cutting carbon pollution.

One state surprisingly stands out for reducing carbon emissions from electricity.

Ohio saw an impressive 37.7 percent drop in its power sector’s carbon emissions from 2005 to 2015. Despite not having a stellar track record on clean energy, the Buckeye State, in fact, has become the nation’s carbon-reducing powerhouse: In absolute terms, Ohio slashed its carbon pollution by 50 million metric tons (MMT) during that decade – far more than any other state.

No doubt the steep drop in natural gas prices during this time period played a starring role in this change, forcing numerous dirty Ohio coal plants to close. Yet, despite recurrent challenges from subsidy-seeking utilities, Ohio’s deregulated electricity market and clean energy standards are also to thank. Imagine the carbon reductions that could be achieved if Ohio fully embraced clean energy technologies, and stopped trying to gut the state’s clean energy standards and bail out aging coal plants. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Ohio / Read 1 Response

Ohio needs a clean energy future, not a no-strings-attached bailout

It’s understandable that FirstEnergy’s hometown newspaper, the Akron Beacon Journal, supports its own utility monopoly. Yet justifying that support and advocating for FirstEnergy’s proposed nuclear bailout on environmental grounds is a surprise…and misdirected.

FirstEnergy’s proposal merely is yet another attempt to force customers to prop up its uneconomic power plants. Blanket subsidies for nuclear without any additional considerations will only delay the transition to a cleaner energy future, and we can’t afford to delay. Read More »

Also posted in Ohio / Comments are closed

Ohio electricity battles abound

Crain's Cleveland Business first published this op-ed on July 16, 2017. 

Ohio long has been a bellwether state. Politically, no state during the past 120 years has picked more winners of presidential elections. Ohio also reflects the nation's diverse and evolving set of energy resources. In particular, this past year Ohio became ground zero in the electricity wars. Its utilities are seeking subsidies for uneconomic power plants, setting up a lively federalism debate about when states can encourage specific energy technologies. Meanwhile, Ohio manufacturers and customers are seeking to break up utility monopolies, provoking discussions about the role of competition in electricity markets.
Read More »

Also posted in Ohio, Utility Business Models / Comments are closed

The more electricity regulators delay, the more customers pay

Remember the old “money booths,” in which game show participants got to grab as many dollars as they could before the timer went off? Well, FirstEnergy’s the lucky contestant; everyday Ohioans are supplying the cash, and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is refusing to call time.

The PUCO is still deciding whether to give final approval to the bailout for the Ohio-based utility giant’s old, inefficient coal plants. Refresher: In October, the PUCO gave a tentative $625-million subsidy to reduce FirstEnergy’s debt associated with its bad business decisions.

PUCO procedures require regulators to solicit responses and reconsider its initial decision. Ohio commissioners, however, have allowed FirstEnergy to start collecting without the final approval. The effective start date of the tariff was January 1, 2017 – nearly five months ago. Read More »

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Don’t buy Perry’s reliability ruse. His fake study is pro-coal propaganda.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s so-called grid reliability study will be nothing more than thinly-veiled propaganda for the coal industry and a tool to justify expensive government handouts to outdated power plants.

How do we know? The tactic is ripped straight from FirstEnergy’s well-worn subsidy playbook.

The Ohio-based utility has relentlessly sought a massive, customer-funded bailout to prop up its unprofitable power plants. It repeatedly tried using reliability as an excuse for subsidies, while the regional grid operator repeatedly declared there would be plenty of generation to keep the lights on without FirstEnergy’s old power plants.

The reliability justification hasn’t worked for FirstEnergy, and it won’t work for the pro-coal Trump administration. The reality is, a 21st-century energy system won’t be based on old, lumbering coal plants. Instead, modern energy technology means we can build a cleaner, more flexible, and reliable electric grid. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Ohio, Utility Business Models / Read 1 Response