FirstEnergy made its legislative priority for 2019 clear: bailouts for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, which are owned by subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), and were scheduled to close in 2020 and 2021, respectively. The version of FirstEnergy’s bailout bill that was signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine, House Bill 6 (HB 6), extends the bailouts to two old and dirty coal plants—Kyger Creek in southern Ohio and Clifty Creek in Indiana.
This push for a government-mandated bailout arrived as FirstEnergy finally began to formally separate itself from FES. FES is currently going through bankruptcy, in part thanks to its aging coal and nuclear plants. The plants are no longer able to compete with cheap natural gas and the increasingly competitive price of renewable energy. This bailout request also comes just as Gov. DeWine takes office. FirstEnergy ranks as the top campaign contributor in each of Gov. DeWine’s last three elections (for governor and attorney general).
FirstEnergy has already received $11 billion from consumer bailouts
This isn’t the first time FirstEnergy has asked consumers to bail them out, and it certainly won’t be the last. In the past 20 years, FirstEnergy has received $11 billion from bailouts. And this time, it’s not only FirstEnergy customers whose rates are increasing. HB 6 will cost consumers across Ohio over $200 million in new fees alone.
HB 6 also effectively eliminates our state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, a principal source of funding for the clean energy industry in Ohio, a sector that employs over 10,000 people in our state. The bill lowers Ohio’s renewable energy standards from 12.5% by 2027 to 8.5% by 2026. Unlike our previous standards, HB 6 does not require that utilities maintain that their use of renewable energy beyond 2026.
Energy efficiency standards are also gutted. Originally, utilities were required to reduce their customers’ energy usage 22% from 2008 levels, an amount that was expected to save ratepayers $4 billion over the next 10 years. Now, once utilities reach a 17.5% reduction in their customers’ energy use from 2008 levels, they are no longer required to continue reducing energy consumption. Most utilities have already reached this benchmark.
Ohio consumers shouldn’t have to pay extra to bail out uncompetitive and aging plants, especially since these plants aren’t necessary to meet Ohio’s energy needs.
The CEO of the PJM Interconnection, which operates the power grid in Ohio, told Bloomberg Television that 18,000 MW of coal and nuclear plants are slated to close this year, but the grid could handle 30,000 MW of closures without inconveniencing customers. A 2018 analysis from PJM ruled that all of FirstEnergy Solutions nuclear plants that were scheduled for closure could be shuttered without affecting our grid reliability.
Ohio consumers can’t afford increased electricity rates to pay for nuclear and coal plants that aren’t needed.
This fight isn’t over. HB 6 was sent to Gov. DeWine’s desk after passing the Ohio House of Representatives by one vote, and a statewide referendum to overturn HB 6 is on its way to the ballot next year.
Until then, let your legislators know how you feel about their vote on HB 6. You can see how your state legislators voted on HB 6 here. Thank legislators who voted NO on HB 6 and encourage them to continue doing what is best for Ohio, and remind legislators who voted YES on HB 6 that you’ll remember their decision the next time you cast your vote.
To read the bill in its final version, visit the Ohio Legislature’s website’s page about the bill here.