Federal Regulators Deliver Blow To Utilities Wanting Subsidies For Power Plants

Jan 9, 2018

Ohio utilities are considering their next steps after federal regulators knocked down a measure that would’ve allowed subsidies for struggling power plants. As Statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, there are still options from state lawmakers.

The proposal would’ve allowed utilities to charge their customers an extra fee to help prop up power plants that struggle to compete in the market. But the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied the measure.

Utilities are reviewing FERC’s decision. But opponents who call these subsidies bailouts say this is a major victory and should send a clear message that these proposals are not needed. Sierra Club’s Neil Waggoner points out that four of the five members of FERC were appointed by President Donald Trump.

“This isn’t just some sort of partisan issue. This is very much experts in the field saying these bailouts do not make any sense,” said Waggoner.

If the plan sounds familiar, it’s because Ohio policymakers have been trying to get similar measures on the books for years now. Pieces of legislation, including HB239, SB128, and SB155, would allow utilities to charge subsidies to help the state’s coal and nuclear plants.

FirstEnergy, which supports those state proposals, says their plants play – quoting here – “an invaluable role in a well-functioning electric grid, yet the markets do not adequately compensate these assets.”

Before Ohio lawmakers got involved, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved a plan that allowed the power companies to add extra fees to electric bills to help these plants. However, FERC denied that rule as well.