State regulators have approved a pair of deals that allow FirstEnergy and AEP to impose multi-billion dollar rate increases on electricity customers to subsidize some older coal-fired and nuclear power plants.
The Public Utilities Commission unanimously passed the power purchase agreements, which the companies say have clear benefits to the companies and to consumers. PUCO chair Andre Porter noted the plans had been amended to stabilize customer bill rates and limit potential impact: “The commission opinion and order today modifies those stipulations to ensure that the end result is in the best interest of all Ohioans,” he said before the vote.
Opponents are likely to challenge the decisions. The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel had estimated the rate hikes could add up to to $5.9 billion over eight years. It’s unclear what the total will be under the commissions’ changes to the plans. Critics such as Trish Demeter with the Ohio Environmental Council are angry. “The PUCO’s decision means that we’re going to have at least eight more years of harmful air pollution and Ohioans are going to have to pick up the tab for old, dirty coal plants that should be on their way to retirement,” Demeter said.
Environmental, business and consumer groups had opposed the rate hikes. Trey Addison is with AARP. “Any cost to the consumer from businesses that essentially are consistently profiting, at the end of the day for us, what about Suzie Buckeye who’s on a fixed income and frankly, cannot afford any sort of increase? That’s our main issue,” Addison said.
Both cases have been watched nationally for the precedent they might set.