FirstEnergy August bills to reflect refund Week of 7/19/2021

Larry Limpf

FirstEnergy customers are scheduled to receive a refund on their August electricity bills as an order by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio takes effect.
The PUCO has directed Toledo Edison, Ohio Edison and Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. to return approximately $27.5 million to customers, including interest.
The refund will be in the form of a credit to customer bills over a single billing cycle and will include an insert with the bill to explain the refund.
For users in the Toledo Edison service area the refund will be about 0.0131881 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the PUCO.
The refunds stem from a provision in House Bill 128, which went into effect June 30. The law requires a full refund of any revenues collected in the form of what are called a decoupling charge. The three FirstEnergy utilities collected the charge from customers from Jan. 1, 2020 through Feb. 2. 2021.
The three were the only Ohio electric distribution utilities that had the decoupling charge.
Decoupling is a regulatory mechanism designed to remove pressure on utilities to sell as much energy as possible by eliminating the relationship between revenues and sales volume. Revenues are “decoupled” from sales and are instead allowed to adjust so that utilities receive fair compensation regardless of fluctuations in sales.
HB 128 also repealed ratepayer funded subsidies for coal and nuclear power plants that were a central component of the controversial HB 6 the legislature passed in 2019.
According to a justice department criminal complaint filed in July 2020, from March 2017 to March 2020, millions of dollars were paid in exchange for the assistance of then Speaker of the House, Larry Householder, and four associates, in passing HB 6 and then working to defeat a ballot initiative that, if passed by voters, would have rescinded the legislation.
In all, about $60 million was funneled through Generation Now, an entity formed as a 501(c)(4) organization, from an “energy company and its affiliates during the relevant period,” the complaint says.
First Energy Solutions 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, the utilities argued, the power plants, including Davis-Besse and Perry, would be closed.


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