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News and Analysis

Ohio Utility Energy Efficiency Program Savings: $4 Billion

April 18, 2014

Ohio’s four investor owned utilities have not testified on any of the recent legislation dealing with energy efficiency, while behind the scenes they have been lobbying. However, the utilities have annually filed spending and savings data with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), as required by law.

Here’s what the filings show:  Electricity ratepayers across the state saved $1.03 billion from 2009 to 2012 through the utility energy efficiency programs.  The utilities projected $4.15 billion in ’lifetime”  (10 years) benefits from this four year period of energy efficiency projects.

The customer energy savings data comes directly from utility status reports, and are available via the PUCO’s online docketing system. The utilities’ own reports verify annual energy savings and confirm that energy efficiency programs are saving customers money.

See the data by utility here.

Tom Johnson Takes PUCO Chair

April 18, 2014

Tom Johnson was sworn in this week as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Johnson previously served in the House of Representatives for 22 years in a southeastern Ohio district.  He then served as Director of the Office of Budget and Management under Governor Taft from 1999 to 2006.  More recently he served in a variety of positions at The Ohio State University.

Johnson is highly regarded for his integrity and dedication to public service.

You can watch a video of the swearing in by Governor Kasich here.

House Drops a Utility Giveaway

April 11, 2014

The House committee dealing with a mid biennial review bill dropped a provision that would have required ratepayers, rather than shareholders, of utilities that own old “manufactured gas plants” to pay for environmental remediation.  The provision, which would violate decades of utility ratemaking standards that require consumers to pay only for services that are useful to them, could have cost consumers in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

These MGP plants cooked coal to make gas that fueled lighting and other devices back into the 1800’s.  Not much use to consumers that would have gotten the remediation bills in the 21st century.  Here is a good opinion piece on the issue by Tom Suddes.

Legislators are saying that the provision will be revisited later in the year.  Meanwhile, thank you to Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield), Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), and Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield) for leading the charge to get rid of the provision.

Manufacturers Split on Energy Standard Freeze Bill

April 11, 2014

The Senate Public Utilities Committee heard both proponent and opponent testimony on SB 310 this week.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), would freeze both the energy efficiency standard and the renewable energy standard at their 2014 levels.

Manufacturers testified on both sides of the issue.  Among the bill’s proponents was Peggy Claytor of the Timken Company.  She testified in support of the “freeze” and called for an improvement:  “Timken believes SB 310 could be further improved by incorporating a streamlined, large industrial opt-out provision for both the energy efficiency/peak demand reduction riders and for the renewables / advanced energy rider.”

Among the bill’s opponents was Alvin Campaan of Lucintech, a Toledo-based start-up that makes photovoltaic coatings for windows and automotive sunroofs.  He supports the renewable energy standards and said “ instituting a freeze would decimate the industry and kill many of the jobs created by the incentives.”

Meanwhile, a group of large manufacturers with operations in Ohio, including Whirlpool, Honda, Johnson Controls, Honeywell and Owens Corning, wrote a letter urging the legislature to protect the energy efficiency standards.  The companies wrote:  “Energy efficiency is a low-cost strategy for keeping utility costs under control and providing protection against price volatility, which enhances competitiveness for our companies.”

PUCO Opens Investigation of “Pass Through” Clauses

April 11, 2014

The Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has opened an investigation of “pass-through” clauses in electricity contracts, through which retail electric suppliers attempt to pass-through certain charges they incur.

The PUCO investigation entry reads in part:  “In March 2014, the Commission became aware, through consumer inquiries and informal complaints, that competitive retail electric service (CRES) suppliers have included pass-through clauses in the terms and conditions of fixed-rate or price contracts and variable contracts with a guaranteed percent off the standard service offer (SSO) rate.  Such pass-through clauses allow the CRES supplier to pass through to the customer the additional costs of certain pass-through events.

And:  “The Commission has opened this investigation to determine whether it is unfair, misleading, deceptive, or unconscionable to market contracts as fixed-rate contracts or as variable contracts with a guaranteed percent off the SSO rate when the contracts include pass-through clauses.”

The OMA is working with members who have been notified of an attempted pass-through by a supplier.  If you would like more information, contact Ryan Augsburger.

Energy Standards “Freeze” & Study Bill Gets First Hearing

April 4, 2014

Senate Bill 310 had it first hearing this week in the Senate Public Utilities Committee, chaired by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati).  Among other provisions, the bill:

1)  Freezes the renewable and solar energy benchmarks (required of electric distribution utilities (EDUs) and electric services companies (ESCs)) at the 2014 level required under current law, and freezes the amount of solar energy compliance payments at the 2014-2015 level;

2)  Eliminates the requirement that EDUs and ESCs provide, by 2025, up to 12.5% of the current 25% alternative energy requirement from advanced energy;

3) Increases the annual energy efficiency (EE) savings requirement (required of EDUs only) from 1% to 4.2% of the most recent three-year average of total kilowatt hours sold to Ohio retail electric customers, and continues the 4.2% annual requirement indefinitely; and

4)  Permits certain higher voltage and higher consumption retail customers to opt out of an EDU’s amended portfolio plan, thereby exempting the customer from cost recovery mechanisms but also removing the customer’s ability to participate in or benefit from the plan for its duration.

The bill also establishes a 21 member Energy Mandates Study Committee to study Ohio’s renewable energy, EE, and peak demand response standards.  The committee is required to submit a report of its findings by December 15, 2015.

There was one proponent witness at this week’s hearing, Sen. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), who presented this testimony.  Chairman Seitz indicated two more hearings on the bill are probable for next week.