Ohioans line pockets of utilitiy companies with the ‘efficiency program rider’ on our bill

At the Statehouse, the mandate repeal bill will have its second hearing on Tuesday at 3:00. Public Utilities Chairman Bill Seitz and the Speaker of the House believe there are sufficient votes to override a veto should the Governor take that route. (We note that Rep. Keith Faber has joined the House Public Utilities Committee). Over in the Senate , President Larry Obhof, thinks the mandates are “not about ideology but about creating a climate that business can count on. And the constant campaign to get rid of the renewable standards that Seitz has led since 2013 is not exactly good for business.” But oddly, Obhof also says– he’s “basically opposed to every mandate,” he said. “But opposing subsidies isn’t always so simple as supporting a free market over perceived favoritism, and legislators will have to weigh the complexities against their core political beliefs.” And what would those core beliefs be? Be “green” if you think it will get you more votes in your next election? One other interesting remark from Obhof was “One of the questions to be raised in the coming years is the impact on local communities that surround power plants. If the plants close and a city loses a major portion of its tax base, the Medina Republican said, what happens to them?”

The Ohio Consumer’s Council testified at the Public Utilities Committee last week. Worthy of note was his statement that “He would also like to see residential customers have the option to opt out of those programs, “as some non-residential customers are allowed to do,” with the agency designed as having authority to exercise that option for residential consumers.” And “While the Consumers’ Counsel has supported the existence of utility programs, concerns by the agency and others include that too much of Ohioans’ payment for utility energy efficiency programs is for utility profits,” Weston reported, noting that in 2015, utilities got a dollar in profit for every two dollars consumers paid for the utilities’ energy efficiency programs. Good grief!

Moody’s Investor Service has pronounced Renewable Portfolio Standards dead or dying – at least for now. “Contracts to sell electricity directly to corporate users are among the key demand drivers for wind and solar power, while the influence of state mandates wanes, according to a report Friday by Moody’s Investors Service. Multiple factors are spurring corporate power deals, especially from companies that have set their own sustainability goals. And the shift comes as costs continue to fall. Power purchase agreements with wind farms are now available for as low as $15 per megawatt-hour, according to Moody’s, and $35 a megawatt-hour for solar.”…

Changes to state energy law nine years ago have “allowed more ways for utilities to propose rate increases for customers to pay,” Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston told state lawmakers on Tuesday.

Appearing before the Public Utilities Committee of the state House of Representatives, Weston proceeded to outline his office’s top legislative priorities for this year.

Chief among those recommendations were moving utilities closer to full market pricing for electricity and preventing opportunities for subsidies and excessive profits.

Subsidies and excessive profits

“Proposals for customers to pay their utilities subsidies above market prices have typically occurred in electric security plans,” which are a form of regulated offering, Weston noted. To date, utilities have charged Ohioans about $14.7 billion in subsidies, he reported.

Bruce Weston of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel

“Electric security plans should end, in favor of market pricing,” Weston recommended.

At the same time, “single-issue ratemaking should be rescinded from the law,” Weston said. Previously, utilities would present a package of all expenses and revenues for regulators to consider as a whole, which allowed the potential for offsets among various charges.

In contrast, single-issue procedures have allowed utilities to add dozens of riders for various charges to bills. “The result is that electric utilities can “cherry-pick’ charges to propose for consumers to pay,” he noted.

The number of riders for the state’s utilities ranged from 12 for Dayton Power and Light to 30 or 32 for FirstEnergy’s three utilities….

Weston also briefly commented on Ohio’s energy efficiency standard, which is now subject to lawmakers’ review yet again in House Bill 114.

Regardless of whether programs are mandatory or voluntary, the Consumers’ Counsel wants “a percentage limit on profits (so-called “shared savings”) that the utilities may charge to consumers for energy efficiency programs,” Weston said. He would also like to see residential customers have the option to opt out of those programs, “as some non-residential customers are allowed to do,” with the agency designed as having authority to exercise that option for residential consumers.

“While the Consumers’ Counsel has supported the existence of utility programs, concerns by the agency and others include that too much of Ohioans’ payment for utility energy efficiency programs is for utility profits,” Weston reported, noting that in 2015, utilities got a dollar in profit for every two dollars consumers paid for the utilities’ energy efficiency programs.

Source: Ohio ratepayer advocate outlines legislative priorities to lawmakers | Midwest Energy News

Advertisements