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Ohio’s FirstEnergy nuclear bailout bill could undermine funding for renewables and efficiency

FirstEnergy seeks bailout for 60-year-old Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant. Money going to nuclear could take a large cut from investment in wind and solar.

“Ohio’s plan stands in stark contrast to the nuclear incentive programs that have been rolled out in states including Connecticut, New JerseyNew York and Illinois. While these states have largely built their nuclear support programs on the foundation of existing state clean energy and carbon reduction policies, Ohio’s plan would actually undermine existing payment structures for the state’s relatively mild clean energy and efficiency goals.

The draft bill would do this by declaring that Ohio’s existing monthly charges for renewable energy, energy efficiency and peak demand reduction are now ‘opt-in’ rather than ‘opt-out’ charges on residential and commercial customers’ utility bills.

Today, these charges appear on every home and business electric bill, with only large industrial customers having the opportunity to opt out of them. But the draft legislation would flip this arrangement on its head, doing away with the monthly charges unless the utility customer sends ‘written notice of intent to opt in’ to pay the extra fees.

The vast body of utility experience shows that switching programs from opt-out to opt-in leads to a drastic reduction in participation rates, since few people will choose to pay more every month, even if they support the services the surcharges pay for. These numbers are likely to be winnowed even further if opting in requires written and mailed-in applications, rather than simpler on-bill, over-the-phone or online options.”

— Jeff St. John, Greentech Media (GTM) 

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