FirstEnergy Hits OH Rate Payers with Higher Priced Electricity

Here’s the story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

FirstEnergy is abolishing most of its Ohio consumer and business energy efficiency programs by the end of the year — on the grounds that the elimination will lower monthly electric bills.

The company will continue similar programs in Pennsylvania and in other states where FirstEnergy also operates local power companies, but where lawmakers have not changed state laws to create an opportunity to end efficiency subsidies.

FirstEnergy is thus depriving its OH customers of the lowest cost option for lowering electric bills as shown on this comparative chart:

EE cost chartThe Plain Dealer refers to rate payer “subsidies” for energy efficiency investments, but energy efficiency, even with these “subsidies,” is much cheaper than investments in any kind of electricity generation.  FirstEnergy got the OH Legislature to change existing laws to comply with FirstEnergy’s business interests, and now FirstEnergy has taken the final step to once again burden OH rate payers with their obsolete coal burners and nuke plants.

FirstEnergy flacks are spinning the move as rate reduction, as they always do.  But this is sleight of hand.  Notice what is missing from their claims:

But Tuesday, FirstEnergy’s top executive for rates and regulatory affairs, William Ridmann, said consumers on average are paying about $4.50 a month in extra charges to pay for the efficiency programs.

In the last five years the total cost of the efficiency programs, including programs to help heavy industry become more efficient and competitive, had led to about $1 billion in temporary charges, he said. Ridmann did not say how much the upgrades had saved customers in power costs. [emphasis mine]

Right.  FirstEnergy is reducing your bills, but it doesn’t want to tell you how much you were actually receiving in benefits from the energy efficiency investments funded by the former “subsidies.” I wonder why they don’t want to tell the whole story.  Look at the chart above again.  With energy efficiency investment removed in OH, the higher costs for coal and nuke plants will go back on FirstEnergy’s OH customers’ bills.

FirstEnergy also claimed that only 7% of its customers took advantage of the energy efficiency programs, implying that others who didn’t participate weren’t getting anything for their higher bills.  In fact, any reduction of electricity use translates into reduced need for electricity supply which benefits all rate payers.  So the smart 7% benefited everyone, while they also helped themselves.

This final quote from the Plain Dealer story sums up FirstEnergy’s outlaw business philosophy:

“FirstEnergy is playing its traditional role of driving a train through the loopholes ahead of all other utilities, said Mark Shanahan, energy adviser to former Gov. Ted Strickland. “And doing it under the guise of helping customers.”

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