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 »

Also posted in FirstEnergy / 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 »

Also posted in Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency / Comments are closed

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, FirstEnergy / Read 1 Response

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 »

Also posted in Solar Energy / Comments are closed

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 FirstEnergy / 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 »

Also posted in Data Access / Comments are closed