IEEFA update: FirstEnergy stops at nothing in its quest for an Ohio ratepayer-financed bailout
"FirstEnergy has made one costly error in judgment after another over the past couple of decades. It covered up a near nuclear disaster at the Davis-Besse plant in 2002, for instance, ultimately costing hundreds of millions in repairs and replacement power. It made an ill-timed purchase of the coal-heavy Allegheny Energy in 2011. It sold natural gas and hydropower plants at a time when they were economically competitive. And it has failed to invest in wind and solar while leading the charge to weaken Ohio’s already-anemic renewable energy portfolio.
As a result, both the company and its subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions—which owns the nuclear plants in question—sank into deep financial trouble, and FirstEnergy Solutions declared bankruptcy in April 2018. The company said it would close its two nuclear plants, Perry and Davis-Besse, and its remaining coal plant, W.H. Sammis, if it didn’t get a bailout from ratepayers or taxpayers.
Over the course of several years, FirstEnergy proposed at least four legislative and regulatory bailout schemes in Ohio (and IEEFA issued several analyses showing why these proposals were such a bad deal for Ohioans). Most of these schemes were rejected in full or in part for being unfair to ratepayers and antithetical to Ohio’s deregulated electricity marketplace. It also must be said that Ohio’s elected leaders have shown little interest in supporting workers and communities harmed when uncompetitive electricity generation plants close. This political inertia has enabled a climate ripe for fear-mongering by coal and nuclear proponents.
The 2018 elections gave the bailout proposal new life, when FirstEnergy saw its chance to hit the jackpot by placing its bets in the form of close to $1 million in strategically-placed campaign contributions on a new governor, Mike DeWine, and new leadership of the Ohio General Assembly."
-- Sandy Buchanan, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA)