News and Analysis
This week, the Ohio Senate approved a notable amendment to a water infrastructure bill, House Bill 264. The amendment modifies last year’s nuclear bailout law (House Bill 6) to provide up to $300,000 to the state agency charged with reviewing financials of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants to verify they are losing money before the plants can receive $150 million a year in ratepayer-funded subsidies.
Recently, Energy Harbor, the owner of the power plants, rewarded investors with hundreds of millions of dollars in stock buybacks. Not bad for a company that just emerged from bankruptcy. 7/1/2020
A national coalition has been formed to advance public policies that support a competitive and equitable transportation sector. According to the Transportation Fairness Alliance, the coalition is comprised of associations that “represent manufacturers, small business owners, farmers, and folks who pay utility bills.” They are taking aim at public policies that create incentives for electric vehicles and related infrastructure.
The OMA has monitored Statehouse proposals that would require Ohioans to subsidize the construction of electric vehicle charging stations via a rider on customer power bills. The OMA has pointed out to policymakers that a competitive market for such infrastructure is a preferable approach.
Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental organizations and others has launched a website to counter the Transportation Fairness Alliance. At issue is the ongoing debate of markets versus mandates. A deeper dive is planned for the Sept. 10 OMA Energy Committee meeting. 7/1/2020
Providing further evidence that the fracking revolution has been positive for American energy independence, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that last year, net imports of petroleum from foreign countries accounted for about 2.7% of the U.S. average daily petroleum consumption. This was the lowest percentage of net petroleum imports since 1949, the first year for which the EIA has historical data. 6/22/2020
Increased U.S. natural gas production has helped bring lower energy costs to manufacturers. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) latest drilling report shows that domestic production increased in 2019 due to, in part, greater productivity of new wells drilled in shale and tight formations. Since 2007, gross natural gas production from the EIA’s Appalachia (includes eastern Ohio) and Haynesville (Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas) regions has grown at an average annual rate of 20%. 6/17/2020
Last week, State Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) unveiled a new version of House Bill 246, legislation to purportedly modernize state agencies that regulate utilities. The bill would impose new risks on manufacturers and could give utilities even more sway over the regulations that govern them. It would also provide monopoly utilities an unfair advantage against competitive energy companies, including developers of renewable energy and electric vehicle charging businesses. Other provisions of HB 246 would diminish the role and voice of customer advocates in proceedings before the PUCO.
Also, the bill would create a natural gas supply access investment program within the Ohio Public Works Commission. The Commission traditionally coordinates the construction of public buildings and infrastructure financed from state approved bonds, which does not include privately-owned energy infrastructure. This provision appears to bypass market economics.
The OMA will convey its concerns to the General Assembly in the coming weeks. View our preliminary analysis. 6/11/2020
In 2019, U.S. annual energy consumption from renewable sources exceeded coal consumption for the first time since before 1885, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This outcome mainly reflects the continued decline in the amount of coal used for electricity generation over the past decade, as well as growth in renewable energy, mostly from wind and solar. 6/4/2020
The House Public Utilities Committee this week heard from the sponsor of House Bill 246, Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana), who reviewed provisions of the new substitute version offered and accepted by the committee. The new version, which is being reviewed by OMA staff, appears to make numerous changes to laws regulating utility companies.
Also this week, the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved House Bill 104, sponsored by Rep. Dick Stein (R-Huron). The bill is intended to spur nuclear research and commercialization. View the comparison document to see what changed. The OMA had expressed concerns regarding the original version and is studying the changes. 5/28/2020
In a blistering editorial, The Plain Dealer has taken policymakers to task for allowing the owners of Ohio’s nuclear power plants to scam Ohio’s ratepayers. As the OMA reported earlier, the owner of the plants, Energy Harbor (formerly FirstEnergy Solutions), recently announced it would be rewarding investors with hundreds of millions dollars of stock buybacks. This was made possible because the company and its allies were able to persuade lawmakers in Columbus to enact House Bill 6 last year. 5/28/2020
A 50% drop in investments by U.S. shale sector companies this year could lead to a price spike in oil and natural gas following the historic pandemic-caused crash. That’s according to a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA). The cuts in U.S. shale production are spurring what the IEA expects in 2020 to be the largest single-year decline in overall global energy investment on record. 5/27/2020
Appearing at the OMA Energy Committee this week, Richard Ricks of Columbia Gas of Ohio gave a presentation showing trends impacting natural gas supply and demand. Susanne Buckley of Scioto Energy provided a report on electricity market trends and future price forecasts. 5/21/2020