Two Sides Debate Price Stability Factor In So-Called Coal Plant Bailouts

Jan 15, 2016

As state regulators move closer to a decision on two proposals that could hike customers’ monthly electric bills, supporters of the plans say they’re needed in order to provide cost stability.

The office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel says the plan, which would guarantee income for struggling coal units, could cost FirstEnergy customers about $8.30 more a month over the course of 8 years.

FirstEnergy says that’s wrong, and is projecting a lower, $3.25 increase. The company’s Bill Ridmann says their plan will make sure coal plants keep running, which is worth a stabilized, 3% increase to electric bills.

“Not necessarily wanting them to be exposed to the high prices that the other participants, the other suppliers are hoping for in this market by having plants retire prematurely,” said Ridmann.

A group of smaller energy generators and suppliers called the Alliance for Energy Choice opposes this plan. Spokesperson Todd Snitchler says there’s no telling how much bills could rise, adding that customers already have the ability to shop for the best offer.

“So I’m not comfortable, when there are existing ways for people to control or hedge their buy and what they’re going to spend to have to say ‘trust me we’re sure that our numbers are right later on down the road,’” said Snitchler.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is expected to reach a decision by March.

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