Energy / FirstEnergy

FirstEnergy won’t say what it’s done with Ohio grid modernization money

Ohio regulators let FirstEnergy collect $168 million a year from ratepayers with virtually no strings attached for how it is spent

Photo by David Wilson / Creative Commons

COLUMBUS — “Ohio ratepayers have paid FirstEnergy’s utilities roughly a quarter of a billion dollars since January 2017 under a distribution modernization rider.

Now, critics say FirstEnergy is stalling on saying just what it’s doing with that money, which regulators approved without any requirements that it pay for specific projects.

The mandate for consumers to pay the rider is currently on appeal before the Supreme Court of Ohio. Meanwhile, FirstEnergy’s utilities have been collecting the $168 million per year, and regulators could renew the charge for another two years after 2019.

“To date, FirstEnergy has stymied the efforts of the state-designated advocate of its consumers to discover information about its subsidy charges,” Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston and assistant counsel Zachary Woltz said in a July 13 brief.

They and other challengers see the charge as an unlawful ‘backdoor bailout’ for FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiaries. And critics say any hypothetical rationale for the rider as a tool to boost the company’s credit position in advance of future projects became even weaker after FirstEnergy’s generation subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy five months ago.”

— Kathiann M Kowalski, Midwest Energy News

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