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Ohio Citizen Action testimony to PUCO, Dec 4, 2018

More than 50 people testified at the hearing at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and all of them glowed about the project from an economic and environmental prospective.

COLUMBUS — Good morning, I’m Rachael Belz, Executive Director of Ohio Citizen Action. I’m here today to provide testimony in favor of American Electric Power’s application 18-501-EL-FOR to add renewable generating facilities to their energy portfolio.

Ohio Citizen Action had worked on both consumer and environmental community issues in Ohio for over four decades. Today, because there are so many speakers who have already testified today to the environmental benefits and need for these projects, and for the sake of brevity, I’m going to keep my comments to the consumer need for these projects. We reserve the right to add to these comments in the official docket at a later time.

Ohio Citizen Action from the very beginning (as Ohio Public Interest Campaign) fought for the consumer and often times against what the largest utilities in the state wanted – under regulate and deregulated markets, and the hybrid of regulation and deregulation we find ourselves in currently. We’ve had to fight so many utility battles over the years because we felt that what the utilities were often proposing was most unfair to the most modest energy users.

But this proposal for American Electric Power to add renewable generating facilities to their generation mix is a good deal for their customers first and foremost. Why? Because with renewable prices falling globally, we should be investing in some of the least expensive and most sustainable technology out there. And pragmatically, we should be vying for investing in it in nearly every way we can think of: utility scale, rooftop solar, rural co-ops, municipals and cities investing directly in renewables, and on and on. While there certainly needs to be smart guidance, the opportunities are more abundant that we’ve seen in a decade or more.

As our organization has worked on issues over the decades involving Ohio’s fleet of old and uneconomic coal and nuclear plants, it’s clear to see that we’re a lot closer to retiring most of the rest of the fleet than has been discussed. This means we’re a lot closer to needing these projects and more just like them than we’ve been planning.

It’s pretty obvious that the legislature doesn’t have a realistic grasp of energy policy in Ohio. Will the incoming administration? Who knows? These issues are too big to be cast to the political winds every election cycle.

So what does that mean right now? What does that mean for the proposal AEP has in front of you? It means you need to be bold. You need to really listen to the will of the AEP customers here today and those sending in written comments who couldn’t come, as well interested parties through out the state who are finally in agreement with at least one big utility project here in Ohio. And not just in agreement  – actually really excited! I can’t tell you how many people we talked with about AEP’s proposal who were thrilled to be able to be FOR something, instead of having to fight AGAINST things of which they don’t agree.

We understand that in order to make these investments, customers will be paying a small amount more on their energy bill. Many of our members would like to see that type of investment. That being said, we will watch these and all investments that Ohio energy customers are being asked to fund, just like we always have. But this proposal makes good business sense. It’s forward looking and would bring jobs and benefits to parts of the state that arguably need it as much if not more than any other place. These proposals are smart investments that would help give certainty to renewable energy developers that Ohio is moving forward into the 21st Century. It would enable us to take advantage of the cleanest, cheapest and most sustainable energy investments ever proposed in our state, and then hopefully do that over and over and over again. Thank you.

— Rachael Belz, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action