News and Analysis
Legislation (House Bill 389) has been introduced to create new, utility-run energy efficiency programs. The bill comes after the legislature spent the past several years trying to eliminate such programs, and did so successfully in 2019 via the scandal-tainted House Bill 6.
Sponsored by Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), HB 389 would allow electric distribution utilities to implement “energy waste reduction” programs, which would be targeted at residential consumers. Individuals who did not want to participate would be required to opt out. Commercial and industrial users would be excluded. 8/16/2021
The Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week released a memo on solar energy research, deployment, and workforce priorities. According to the DOE document, solar generation “could supply more than 40% of U.S. electricity by 2035 if Congress implements clean energy policies, such as tax credits for solar farms and manufacturing facilities.” Solar generation currently produces around 3% of the U.S. electricity supply. 8/18/2021
There has been much activity in the energy space that we’ll cover along with our popular gas market trends report by Columbia Gas of Ohio and electricity market trends report by Scioto Energy.
In-depth reports by OMA staff, counsel, and technical experts help you manage energy and save money. 8/12/2021
This week, Cleveland.com reported on the release of new documents that show Sam Randazzo — the longtime utilities lawyer and former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) — six years ago received “a huge personal windfall from FirstEnergy in exchange for what the company has said was his agreement to change sides on a key state regulatory move” to effectively bail out less profitable power plants by imposing extra charges on ratepayers.
According to The Plain Dealer, FirstEnergy more than quadrupled Randazzo’s contract in 2015 — increasing it from $2.5 million to $11.2 million.
Last month, FirstEnergy admitted attempting to bribe Randazzo, who has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. Stay tuned for further developments. 8/5/2021
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost this week expanded his House Bill 6 racketeering lawsuit to include new defendants and additional factual allegations based on recent filings by the U.S. Department of Justice in its criminal case. Yost’s new filing added the following defendants:
- Chuck Jones, former CEO of FirstEnergy;
- Michael Dowling, former senior vice president for FirstEnergy;
- Former Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Sam Randazzo; and
- Several entities associated with Randazzo, including the now-dissolved IEU-Ohio Administration Co., LLC.
Yost wants Randazzo to return a $4.3 million FirstEnergy payment the company admitted was a bribe, as well as his public salary while serving as PUCO chair.
Yost’s press release states: “As layers of the corrupt enterprise continue to be pried apart, it became clear that Jones, Dowling, and Randazzo were significant players in what one of the participants labeled ‘an unholy alliance’ … engaged in extortion, money laundering, coercion, intimidation and an attempted cover-up by a politically-connected group trying to enrich themselves.” 8/5/2021
A third-party audit report has found FirstEnergy charged Ohio ratepayers millions in undocumented spending, including for payments the company made to a dark money group tied to the House Bill 6 scandal. The audit report — part of four ongoing proceedings being conducted by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to investigate FirstEnergy’s HB 6 activities — only looked into 17 payments specifically flagged by FirstEnergy.
According to a PUCO news release, the auditing firm recommends that ratepayers be refunded $6.6 million — and that $7.4 million be excluded from the company’s next base rate case in 2024.
Gongwer News Service reports the audit also found FirstEnergy lacked sufficient documentation for millions more in other payments, including $14 million to firms owned by Sam Randazzo, the former PUCO chair. Last month, FirstEnergy admitted attempting to bribe Randazzo. 8/3/2021
In 2020, renewable energy (including wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, and geothermal energy) became the second-leading source of U.S. electricity generation, according to the Energy Information Administration. Renewables generated a record 834 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity (21%) — trailing only natural gas generation (1,617 billion kWh). 8/4/2021
In a July 24 editorial published by The Columbus Dispatch, OMA President Ryan Augsburger provides the manufacturing perspective on the House Bill 6 scandal and its impact on the Buckeye State.
Augsburger writes that while state lawmakers have repealed key provisions of the law, “there is at least one more critical provision of HB 6 that must be repealed” to keep Ohio’s electricity costs and services competitive. The OMA is urging lawmakers to pass the bipartisan Senate Bill 117 to end HB 6’s subsidies for two uneconomical coal-fired plants, including one in Indiana. 7/26/2021
Following last week’s announcement that FirstEnergy will pay a $230 million penalty for bribing state officials to pass House Bill 6, the company said this week it is “re-evaluating” its prior assurance that no customer dollars were used to support the effort. The Plain Dealer (subscription) reports that a FirstEnergy spokeswoman declined to elaborate.
The utility’s re-evaluation was announced in its latest filing in one of four ongoing Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) investigations into the company’s conduct during HB 6’s consideration. The PUCO, which regulates utilities in Ohio, began its probe last September, ordering the company to demonstrate that its customers weren’t directly or indirectly billed for charitable and political spending.
Gongwer News Service notes that legal efforts by the OMA Energy Group and the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel earlier this month accused the company of “obfuscation” in the face of requests for FirstEnergy documents and records related to HB 6 spending. 7/27/2021
As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) increasingly takes climate issues into account in its decision making, Politico reports that Republicans on Capitol Hill are questioning the commission’s statutory authority to do so. At a U.S. House hearing this week, GOP members said FERC may be overstepping its jurisdiction “by viewing all decisions through an environmental lens instead of putting reliability and affordability for the consumer first.” 7/28/2021