Report:

First Energy’s Top Ten Attacks on Clean Energy

Released by: Environment Ohio

For the last several years, Ohio’s largest utility has been the state’s biggest opponent of clean energy. Below are the top ten examples of FirstEnergy’s pattern of bias against Ohio’s clean energy future.

 

1)      Failed to meet the grade on energy efficiency

Ohio’s energy efficiency law allows utilities to recover costs for efficiency programs required by law, allowing them to make money on programs as varied as home appliance rebates and major industrial retrofits. Three out of four of Ohio’s investor-owned utilities are exceeding the law’s mandates with ease. But FirstEnergy has thus far failed to meet the minimum standard of efficiency every single year the law has been in effect.

2)      Lobbied to block new efficiency programs

This November, FirstEnergy pushed draft legislation at the statehouse to roll back the efficiency law by blocking all future increases in efficiency programs.[1] The legislature rejected this back-door maneuver, in part because FirstEnergy’s attempt to ram it quickly through a closed-door process was so clearly poor form.

3)      Failed to meet the law’s solar requirements – twice.

Even as Ohio’s other investor-owned utilities met the early years requirements for solar power with ease, FirstEnergy failed to purchase enough solar power to meet the minimum requirements of the law for the first two years of the law.[2]

4)      Made headlines for worst efficiency program to date

Energy efficiency can be a great deal for consumers, saving money on utilities bills and insulating them against future price volatility. But poorly executed energy efficiency that proves a bad deal for consumers can undermine confidence in effective policies. FirstEnergy’s botched 2009 program[3] to hand-deliver overpriced light bulbs to millions of customers in northern Ohio in not only ripped off its customers, it undermined effective efficiency programs that offer a good deal for customers while cutting pollution.

5)      Blocked the development of Ohio’s largest solar array

Not content to undermine solar solely through its own failure to develop projects, FirstEnergy filed a case against competitor American Electric Power (AEP) to stop approval at the PUCO for AEP’s long-planned financing of the Turning Point Solar farm. Over the objections of its staff, PUCO voted to deny AEP’s financing proposal for the project.[4]

6)      Charged customers too much for solar

Too meet its solar requirement under state law, FirstEnergy paid for solar credits at a price well above fair market rateswhen purchasing credits from its own subsidiary. This meant more profits for FirstEnergy, since it could pass off the added costs of consumers, but unfairly pinned the blame for high costs on solar technology itself. [5]

7)      Attempted to avoid renewable investment by burning wood

It seems that FirstEnergy will try anything to avoid investing in proven and affordable clean energy technologies like wind, solar and energy efficiency. In 2010, FirstEnergy pushed to retrofit one of its aging coal plants to burn wood in order to meet its renewable energy requirement – a plan so ill-conceived that Ohio forests would not likely to have been able to meet the plant’s demand for wood.[6]

8)      Extended the riskiest power plants in the country

Part of FirstEnergy’s opposition to clean energy is its heavy reliance on the riskiest energy sources. For decades FirstEnergy’s Davis Besse nuclear power plant has ranked among the nation’s riskiest. Davis-Besse’s license is set to expire in 2015, but FirstEnergy is lobbying to keep the reactor open, rather than replace that electricity with safe and clean wind, solar, and energy efficiency.[7]

9)      Lobbied for loopholes in Ohio’s landmark Clean Energy Law

Passed in 2008, Ohio’s Clean Energy Law (Amended Sub. Senate Bill 221) catapulted Ohio to the forefront of Midwestern investment in clean, renewable power. Yet FirstEnergy lobbied for loopholes in the law that would allow it to avoid investing in new energy efficiency by counting efficiency measures taken by its customers as far back in 2006 towards the utilities’ annual benchmarks.

10)  Used legislative loopholes to avoid new efficiency investment

More so than any other utility, FirstEnergy has taken of a loophole it helped create in Ohio’s energy efficiency law that allows utilities to count efficiency projects completed as far back as 2006 towards future efficiency goals. The spirit of the law was to spur new investment in energy efficiency, but FirstEnergy’s decision to rely on old savings does nothing to help Ohio take advantage of its largest and most affordable energy resource – unrealized energy efficiency.

[1] Funk, John. “FirstEnergy wants to cap Ohio energy efficiency mandates, arguing costly market interference.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer.http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/11/firstenergy_wants_to.... Nov 262012
[2]Kerth, Rob; and Boggs, Julian. “Ohio’s Clean Energy Report Card, Year 2: Wind, Solar & Energy Efficiency on the Rise.” Environment Ohio Research & Policy Center. Feb 16, 2012
[3] Funk, John. “Regulators stop FirstEnergy's plan to charge customers for compact fluorescent light bulbs.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer.http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2009/10/light_bulbs.html Oct 7, 2009
[4]Gearino, Dan. “Turning Point solar project in Noble County all but dead.” The Columbus Dispatch. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2013/01/09/turning-poin.... Jan 9 2013.
[5] Funk, John. Audit finds FirstEnergy overpaid for renewable energy credits, passed on expenses to customers. http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/08/audit_finds_firstene... Aug 17, 2013.
[6] Hunt, Spencer. “FirstEnergy pressured about biomass plans.” The Columbus Dispatch. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2010/05/09/firstenergy-.... May 9, 2012
[7] McCray, Vanessa. “Davis-Besse hearings open.” The Toledo Blade.http://www.toledoblade.com/Energy/2012/11/06/Davis-Besse-hearings-open.html. Nov 6, 2012