The bill passed by the Senate didn’t change. Speaker Householder finally rounded up enough “yes” votes to bring HB 6 to the floor of the House July 23 rd on a concurrence motion. The vote in favor was bipartisan, though the Democratic caucus came out against the bill. The House Republicans that opposed the bailout didn’t show up to vote. The Democrats that did vote for the bill in the Senate ensured an amendment offsetting at least part of the potential loss to the OPAE network.
That’s a lot to chew on.
Let me tell you what the winners got. FirstEnergy got 85 cents a month from all the regulated utility customers in the State to make their two nuclear plants more profitable. And, those profits will flow out-of-state to New York hedge funds and investment banks – just like the 1890s when New York robber barons took hundreds of million in profits out of coal towns and railroads. The Senate decided that the subsidy wouldn’t start until 2021, but we’ll begin paying shortly.
$30 Million in Solar
$30 million from the same fee will go to six large solar facilities that have siting approval. AEP is involved in at least two of those. And then there’s the up to $1.50 per month fee to subsidize two 1950s powerplants that are definitely losing money. We’re already bailing them out but now it’s the law. Perpetual money machines.
A particular group of Republicans were finally able to prevail in their five-year campaign to eliminate Ohio’s energy efficiency standards. Governor Kasich turned a repeal effort into a two-year freeze back in 2015. The standards were gutted the next year, allowing the utilities to even count the efficiency that just organically happens in the economy, though all utilities but FirstEnergy operated a traditional DSM program. The repeal of the efficiency standards is what put us at risk. The AEP and DP&L programs are funded through the DSM portfolios that meet those standards, so if those companies choose not to have programs after the mandates end in 2020 we would lose the funding that serves many of our clients in those territories. The FirstEnergy programs is authorized separately and continues through 2024.
A Lot of Hard Work
From the beginning of consideration of the bill in the House, the elimination of funding for low income programs has been an issue. The original bill banned funding. After a lot of hard work, the House Substitute added a provision upping the HEAP transfer to weatherization to 25%. It was not the solution OPAE proposed, but you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. After all, if energy prices skyrocket we can always reprogram the HEAP funds to bill payment assistance. The first Senate substitute bill deleted the HEAP transfer provision, but reinstated energy efficiency mandates, meaning we could push for continuation of current programs. But the bill had some big easy outs for utilities, creating less certainty of funding. OPAE chose to advocate for the increased HEAP transfer, which was included in the final bill. The renewable energy standard continues, but is reduced from 12.5% to 8.5%, a number that the utilities have probably already met.
A Step Backward – Again
Ohio took a great step backwards. The intellectual allies of the Koch Brothers and traditional political skullduggery combined to eliminate support for new energy technologies and transfer the ratepayer dollars to subsidize old technologies that may not need the money. Those hedge fund guys sure know how to get their hands in Joe Ratepayer’s pocket. Fortunately, solar has gotten so cheap that as long as a company can get a site approved, it can compete with natural gas. And eventually we will overcome the conspiracy against wind turbines, whose believers have choked off most of the wind development in Ohio. Wind, solar and batteries should do it. And efficiency. Climate change compels us to move in this direction as rapidly as possible.