Coal / Energy / FirstEnergy

PUCO rejects challenge to FirstEnergy special subsidy, you’ll keep paying more

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has thrown out the objections of consumer and environmental groups challenging its earlier decision granting an increase in FirstEnergy’s delivery charges, ostensibly for upgrades to local wires, but without a provision preventing the company from using the money for anything else, including its struggling power plants.

CLEVELAND — “The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio today rejected multiple appeals of its October 2016 ruling giving FirstEnergy an extra $204 million a year for up to five years, officially for upgrades to the company’s local wires and substations, but say opponents, actually allowing the company to use the money in any way it chooses.

Consumer and environmental groups have charged that the company will funnel the money to its power plants, which have struggled to compete in wholesale markets against companies using gas turbines rather than coal and nuclear energy to generate electricity.

The company has argued that it needs the extra money to keep its credit ratings healthy enough to allow it to borrow money at a reasonable cost for upgrades the PUCO wants it to make to its local power delivery system. It repeated that argument in a statement today.

Yet when this rate case began just over three years ago, the company’s objective was to find a way to have customers help support its financially failing power plants, which since 2006 have been owned by its unregulated subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions.

FirstEnergy began collecting the new charges in January and will continue to collect them even as opponents now head to the Ohio Supreme Court. That’s how Ohio’s utility law is written.”

— John Funk, Cleveland Plain Dealer

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