The General Assembly bolted out of Columbus on March 25th, patting themselves on the back for passing legislation to repeal portions of the notorious HB 6. Even still-Rep. Larry Householder voted for the bill.
SB 124 is a partial repeal, and it’s telling what it repeals and what it doesn’t repeal. It does end the nuclear subsidies. Attorney General Dave Yost had already negotiated an agreement with Energy Harbor, the ‘new’ owners of Davis Besse and Perry, to forego the subsidy, in part because the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) had ruled the subsidy was in fact a subsidy and would be offset in the regional wholesale market bidding process. In other words, the Ohio subsidy would make it more difficult for the nuclear plants to compete in the market, not easier. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio reset the Rider to “0”.
The bill also repeals a decoupling provision that would guarantee FirstEnergy operating utilities the same level of revenue they received from customers in 2018. The Company had already agreed to forego the decoupling revenue, but is fighting at the Commission to hold onto the money it received in January, before agreeing to scrap the rider.
So, what is left to repeal? The subsidies for four solar plants still exist, including one that didn’t apply on time and had to get a legislative fix so it could get its share of $20 million in annual payments. These projects don’t depend on the regional wholesale markets where FERC would view this as a subsidy, so the money you and I pay goes right to the investors.
The bill also failed to repeal the subsidy provided to the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) powerplants, two 1950s era coal plants (one in Indiana) that are jointly owned by Ohio’s investor-owned utilities and several public power entities. These subsidies cost upwards of $90 million per year. There are recent allegations that OVEC has acted to maximize these subsidies by regularly operating at a loss, knowing customers will make up the shortfall.
I don’t look for the General Assembly to take on coal, and the solar plants have some politically powerful investors behind them. So, open the wallet because we will still be paying for HB 6, the parts that haven’t been repealed.