News and Analysis
In April 2018, The Brattle Group published a report on the impact of announced nuclear retirements in Ohio and Pennsylvania. This report was published after FirstEnergy Solutions made an appeal to the U.S. Department of Energy for subsidies for the plants and after FirstEnergy Solutions filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In this report, the authors outline reasons that they believe justify state and/or federal subsidies to continue operating uneconomic nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
This report is being used by proponents of a bailout of the economically failing nuclear plants. Unfortunately, the report is analytically flawed.
The report does not in any way address what the potential cost of a state and/or federal nuclear subsidy to ratepayers would be, so that a cost/benefit analysis cannot be made.
The report fails to recognize the operation of competitive markets for electricity; the report makes the assumption that should these plants retire, the markets in which they operate will not respond accordingly. That is, it assumes that no individual power producer would see an opportunity in increased capacity costs to develop new renewable energy products.
The report ignores the value of competitive markets to provide the most efficient price of electricity for consumers.
And, the report supports a technology over a technology-neutral regulatory system that has served Ohioans for nearly a decade.
Read more. 2/28/2019
Appearing before the members of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week, a pair of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty members provided a presentation on the low-carbon benefits derived from nuclear power.
While their testimony was not related to any specific legislative proposal, it was likely intended as context for anticipated legislation to bailout Ohio’s two nuclear power plants owned and operated by FirstEnergy subsidiaries.
The two-year MIT study, “The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World,” takes looks at the U.S. landscape and the stalled nuclear energy capacity growth. It outlines new policy measures to potentially reverse that trend, but the study did not include an examination of the state of Ohio or its zero-emissions nuclear proposals from the last General Assembly.
Among the recommendations to policymakers: “decarbonization policies should create a level playing field that allows all low-carbon generation technologies to compete on their merits.” This, of course, is not what the various bailout proposals would do. 2/28/2019
In mid-February AEP Ohio’s parent company, American Electric Power, announced that its unregulated subsidiary would invest over a billion shareholder dollars to acquire renewable energy that the company believes will provide additional shareholder value. The announcement is in contrast to AEP Ohio’s regulatory proposal pending at the PUCO which would force all AEP customers to subsidize a similar investment on the regulated-side, shifting risk from shareholders to its customers.
“If AEP Ohio wants to build new generation, the company’s shareholders – not its customers – should be doing the investing and taking on the risk. We are glad to see they are now doing that and expect they will discontinue efforts to ask the PUCO to approve their filing that would make customers foot the bill to develop renewable generation in Ohio,” said Bradley Belden, President, The Belden Brick Company, and chair of the OMA Energy Group. 2/28/2019
This week the PUCO authorized Duke Energy Ohio to establish a credit on electric customer bills to reflect the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 into its rates. Here are the details.
This action settles the issue for three out of four of Ohio’s regulated-electric utilities, while the fourth is in the settlement process.
The OMA Energy Group intervened in these proceedings in order to ensure that members’ interests are protected and that the full benefit of the TCJA is passed back to customers, as required by law. 2/21/2019
With the announcement of legislative committee assignments this week, it becomes evident which state representatives and senators will be most involved in crafting anticipated electricity-pricing legislation.
Senator Steve Wilson will chair the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee. In the House, Rep. Nino Vitale will chair the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Rep. Jamie Callender will chair the Public Utilities Committee. 2/14/2019
During inaugural meetings of standing House committees this week, we got a glimpse of what is coming down the pike. Statehouse observers believe a legislative proposal is forthcoming that would bailout the uneconomic nuclear power plants in Lake and Ottawa Counties.
Lawmakers on three separate House panels will likely touch the proposal. Rep Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) co-chair of a subcommittee on Energy Generation confirmed that preserving the nuclear power plants is a priority. Rep. Stein also expressed support for molten salt, thorium nuclear reactors.
House Energy Committee Chair Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) was quoted in Statehouse news media as saying, “We seriously have to look at generation and the mix of what Ohio’s doing.” And, “We’ve had some brownout situations. We’ve had some issues with PJM Interconnection in terms of how we’re putting energy into that. One of the key issues for our state is if we’re an energy producer it helps attract business to the state because our rates will be lower and it also helps your average citizen.”
Meanwhile, House Public Utilities Committee Chair Jamie Callender (R-Concord) indicated that nuclear bailout legislation could come to his committee or to the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, and that wind setbacks will also be a likely subject for legislative reform. In an interview following the committee meeting, he expressed concern that Ohio doesn’t produce enough power to meet its own needs while conceding the region enjoys a surplus of electricity. 2/14/2019
This week PUCO Chairman Asim Haque submitted his letter of resignation to Governor DeWine.
In a PUCO press release that included a list of Haque’s significant accomplishments, Haque said: “I would not be doing this experience, nor my feelings about public service to this state any justice by expressing the common refrain of being “honored” to have served. It is of course true that I am deeply honored to have served. I think, however, it is more revealing, more personal for me to say that this experience has been an absolute dream. …”
Haque described his next position: “… I have accepted a job with PJM Interconnection in suburban Philadelphia. It is the regional transmission organization and wholesale market operator for thirteen states (including Ohio) and the District of Columbia. Its mission is similar to that of the PUCO’s, as PJM is tasked with providing reliable power at least cost to a large footprint in this country. …” 2/4/2019
Gov. DeWine this week appointed Columbus attorney and lobbyist, Samuel Randazzo to a seat on the PUCO. At the same time, the governor designated Mr. Randazzo as chairman of the PUCO. His five-year term will begin in April. 2/5/2019
This week saw renewed legislative interest in forcing Ohio electric customers to pay to bailout uneconomic nuclear power plants. House Speaker Larry Householder voiced support for preserving the plants lauding their environmental benefits.
Toledo Blade quoted the Speaker as saying, “I think it’s a benefit to the entire state of Ohio to have those non-emissions plants,” perhaps opening the door to new charges on power bills of all Ohio investor-owned utility customers.
Meanwhile, the Columbus Dispatch ran dueling columns on the topic. Former New Hampshire governor and U.S. Senator Judd Gregg made the case for bailing out nuclear power to protect jobs and promote clean fuel, while former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell argued against bailouts calling them crony capitalism.
Get ready for another electrifying debate. The OMA Energy Committee will discuss this issue at its March 12 meeting. 2/7/2019
The PUCO Nominating Council met this week to interview nine candidates for a commissioner vacancy on the commission.
The nine candidates were selected from a field of twenty-three applicants.
Following the interviews, the council advanced four finalists: Gene Krebs, a former state legislator and former board chair of the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC); Dennis Deters, a court of appeals judge in Cincinnati; Bryce McKenney, an attorney at the OCC; and Sam Randazzo, a lobbyist for the IEU-Ohio.
Governor DeWine will consider the slate of four to appoint a new commissioner to a five-year term. 1/31/2019