Gov. DeWine signs partial repeal of HB 6

Larry Limpf

Gov. Mike DeWine has signed legislation that will repeal parts of House Bill 6 that was passed in 2019 but was later linked to a $61 million bribery and corruption scheme to help secure the bill’s passage.
Meanwhile, FirstEnergy Corp. announced last week that its Ohio utilities – Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company and Toledo Edison – will credit customers approximately $26 million in revenues that were previously collected through a decoupling mechanism authorized under Ohio law.
Critics of the decoupling provision in HB 6 contend it would have allowed FirstEnergy to collect about $355 million in unearned revenue through 2024. The provision was intended to allow the utility to recover the difference between its 2018 base distribution revenue – about $978 million – and what it collects in future years. According to one analysis, in 2018 FirstEnergy realized its highest electricity sales in 10 years.
The decoupling was approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and intended to help the utility offset lost demand for electricity from its energy-efficiency programs but HB 6 also included a provision that ended a requirement for FirstEnergy and other investor-owned utilities in Ohio to achieve energy-efficiency savings as of Dec. 31, 2020.
The bill signed Wednesday by Gov. DeWine, HB 128, also ends the so-called bailout provision of nuclear power plants that became synonymous with HB 6.
HB 128 partially repeals the legal basis for a new customer charge that was originally scheduled to begin in January 2021 and annually raise up to $170 million to support two Ohio based nuclear power plants and certain utility-scale, solar energy electric generating facilities.
The bill repeals the Nuclear Generation Fund, a custodial fund outside the state treasury, and reduces the charge originally scheduled to be implemented in January 2021, and enables electric distribution utility customers to avoid up to $150 million in annual charges over seven years.
HB 6 created the state’s Clean Energy Program but the subsidies for coal and nuclear plants drew intense criticism from environmentalists and others.
FirstEnergy Solutions, a FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary, emerged from bankruptcy as a separate entity with a new name, Energy Harbor.
FES had filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in 2018, arguing its coal and nuclear power plants could not compete against cheaper energy sources such as natural gas.
Utility executives turned to the legislature for financial assistance and in April 2019 HB 6 was introduced and then passed three months later. Without a ratepayer subsidy, they argued, the power plants, including the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station, would be closed.


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