The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently rejected Ohio-based utilities FirstEnergy and AEP’s bailout deals, which the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently approved. FERC, which is responsible for ensuring fair wholesale electricity prices, recognized that these backroom bailouts were “abusive,” taking advantage of “captive” customers and harming the competitive market. Fortunately, FERC’s rulings protect customers and markets – which the PUCO utterly failed to do in approving these deals.
FirstEnergy and AEP wanted these bailouts to protect their old coal and nuclear plants, which are losing money because they cost more to operate than the money received from power sales. The companies considered shutting down the plants, but they concocted the backroom bailout deals in a last-ditch attempt to keep them open and money rolling in. Read More
America got a rare unanimous decision from the Supreme Court this week in a case that has widespread implications for our electric grid, as well as the markets and regulations that govern and move it.
The case was Hughes v. Talen Energy Marketing (docket no. 14-614). The Court decided it 8-to-0, with Justice Ginsburg writing the opinion.
It centered on a Maryland decision to guarantee fixed revenues for an electric generator. Typically, generators are paid through wholesale markets, regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). These wholesale markets keep prices down and costs competitive by only paying for the lowest-cost resources necessary to keep the system running. By guaranteeing money for a generator, no matter how competitive it was in the market, Maryland effectively muted the price signal and ensured that electricity from this particular resource would be paid – regardless of how costly it might be for consumers. Read More
Wait – Ohio utility regulators did what?
The $6-billion bailout of uneconomical coal and nuclear plants is bad enough. But the decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to let two power companies saddle ratepayers with their bad debt also sets a dangerous precedent that could have ramifications for consumers in other states.
This is more than a local rate case. It’s about traditional utilities going on the offense against new and cleaner power providers that offer cheaper rates in a competitive energy market – a drama playing out nationwide.
All eyes are now on the federal agency overseeing wholesale electricity markets to see if the Ohio deal will stand or fall. Read More
Also posted in FirstEnergy
In extremely disappointing news, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) recently approved the AEP and FirstEnergy bailout cases. By keeping old, uneconomic coal and nuclear plants running for the next eight years, the bailouts are bad for customers, bad for the environment, and bad for the competitive electric market. Even worse, customers are forced to subsidize these plants, even if they buy their power from a different supplier.
A broad coalition of consumer, industrial, commercial, and environmental advocates opposed the bailouts, but the PUCO disregarded this strong public opposition. However, the battle over the bailouts is far from over. Read More
AEP Ohio has been busy. On the one hand, it has been trying to keep its outdated, uneconomic coal plants afloat at a hefty cost to Ohioans. And as of last week, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved AEP’s requested subsidies to continue spewing pollution from dirty generators. This bailout is bad news for business, customers, and the environment – and the PUCO should have rejected it. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) will continue to object to the income-guarantees at the state and federal level.
On the other hand, and in a separate regulatory case, AEP has been working with multiple parties – including EDF – to build a cleaner, smarter grid. Its recent grid modernization agreement is a step toward more efficient, reliable electricity that will help people reduce their energy usage, lower their electric bills, and breathe cleaner air.
These two concurrent cases show AEP needs to decide whether it will change for the future, or stay stuck in the past. And while EDF has been clear in our opposition to the subsidies, today we want to acknowledge AEP’s innovative, forward-looking grid modernization efforts. Read More
Ford launched the Edsel in the late 1950’s as a new, top-of-the-line luxury car. But the project was doomed from the start because the car’s design was outdated and shunned by customers. Ford closed production after only three years, losing nearly $3 billion as measured in today’s dollars. Today “Edsel” is synonymous for a project that is a total failure.
Fast forward to modern day Ohio, where utility giants FirstEnergy and AEP are trying to bail out several old, uneconomic power plants, some of which also were built in the late 1950s. They are asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to guarantee the purchase of power from these outdated plants. The FirstEnergy and AEP bailouts are a bad idea, like the Edsel, yet if the PUCO approves the bailouts, why not subsidize and bring back the Edsel too?
The main rationale for keeping the power plants open is to have a diverse supply of energy resources in Ohio – regardless of whether they are cost-effective or profitable. The utilities’ definition of diversity seems to be having a mix of both modern and ancient generators. So why not bring back the Edsel in order to improve diversity? It would give car buyers more choices, even if it’s a slow, unattractive choice. Read More