Proposed bill would offer energy efficiency incentives for Ohio utility companies

The nuclear plant bailout law approved in 2019 paved the way for a $1 billion ratepayer-funded rescue of Ohio’s two aging nuclear plants. Lawmakers repealed the bailout earlier this year, but left unchanged were provisions that gutted state renewable energy standards and eliminated all energy efficiency programs.

Posted: Aug 16, 2021 12:59 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio power companies could once again offer energy efficiency programs such as smart thermostats or appliance rebates, the cost of which would be covered by customers under new legislation aimed at restarting such programs after a now-tainted energy bill killed them off.

The nuclear plant bailout law approved in 2019 paved the way for a $1 billion ratepayer-funded rescue of Ohio’s two aging nuclear plants.

Lawmakers repealed the bailout earlier this year, but left unchanged were provisions that gutted state renewable energy standards and eliminated all energy efficiency programs.

Legislation introduced last week aims to restore some of those programs, but comes with a twist: For the first time, residential customers not interested in participating can opt out of paying their share of the program.

In the past, all residential customers paid for an energy efficiency program regardless of whether they took part.

The opt-out would last five years, after which customers would have to again indicate their preference. The participation fee would be capped at $1.50 a month. Customers are automatically included in the program unless they opt out.

Commercial and industrial customers, on the other hand, are automatically excluded from participating and would have to choose to opt in under the bill.

The legislation avoids mandates on customers while relaunching realistic energy efficiency programs such as smart thermostats, said bill co-sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican.

Customers can control such thermostats remotely, and in some cases utilities could also adjust them to lower energy use system-wide during heat waves or cold snaps to avoid power outages.

The bill “provides a way forward to achieve further progress toward reducing our energy dependence and our energy usage,” Seitz said.

Earlier this summer, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved a plan by one utility, AES — formerly Dayton Power & Light — to provide $1.4 million for smart thermostat rebates and $900,000 for energy-saving weatherization measures for low- and moderate-income customers.

But because of the remaining parts of the nuclear bailout bill, the commission’s approval stipulated the cost must be covered by company shareholders, not ratepayers.

That ruling and others by PUCO upholding the law’s intent made the bipartisan legislation introduced this week necessary, said co-sponsor Rep. David Leland, a Columbus Democrat. Utilities didn’t feel they could restart the ratepayer-funded programs without the backing of the General Assembly, he said.

Support for the nuclear bailout law began to crumble last year when federal prosecutors charged five individuals, including the former Republican speaker of the Ohio House, with funneling $60 million in energy company money toward an illegal effort to pass the bill. Prosecutors allege the effort also included attempts to kill a proposed referendum to repeal the law.

Two men have pleaded guilty and await sentencing. Two more, including ex-Speaker Larry Householder, have pleaded not guilty and are fighting the charges. A fifth man killed himself with charges pending against him.

Last month, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. admitted to using dark money groups to fund the effort, and agreed to pay $230 million in penalties and meet other conditions to avoid prosecution on a federal conspiracy charge.

The legislation that would reinstate some energy efficiency programs has the support of groups that aren’t always on the same side of energy issues, including the Ohio Environmental Council and state investor-owned utilities including AEP, Duke Energy and AES Corp.

While the OEC would have preferred a full repeal of the nuclear energy bill known as House Bill 6 and a return to previous efficiency programs, the legislation is a step in the right direction, said Randi Leppla, vice president of the organization’s Action Fund.

“It ensures Ohio residential customers have access to efficiency programs that will save energy, which is great for the environment, and save money on their electric bills,” she said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1490496

Reported Deaths: 20500
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2039162521
Lake1001941500
Allen923541011
Hamilton72207547
St. Joseph64053755
Elkhart48903625
Vanderburgh47506523
Tippecanoe43182336
Johnson37906521
Hendricks35984459
Porter34277466
Madison28722537
Clark25552325
Vigo25251344
LaPorte23269307
Monroe22751244
Howard21818377
Delaware21391366
Hancock18487220
Bartholomew17860213
Kosciusko17769201
Warrick16642213
Wayne16062300
Floyd15640257
Grant15143296
Morgan14245231
Boone13388136
Noble11656140
Dearborn11560112
Henry11546201
Shelby11483150
Marshall11258167
Dubois11123152
Jackson10425104
Cass10121142
DeKalb10101129
Lawrence10082220
Huntington10016139
Gibson9415125
Montgomery9153141
Knox8942124
Harrison8874112
Whitley861871
Steuben8488104
Jasper8192114
Clinton810295
Putnam806199
Miami8032133
Jefferson7773124
Wabash7726139
Ripley7118112
Adams6595101
Daviess6455127
Scott638586
White613282
Greene5999112
Clay597573
Wells5902120
Decatur5885119
Jennings586278
Fayette5735121
Posey543448
LaGrange524197
Randolph5027129
Washington494368
Owen491499
Fountain472479
Spencer446556
Starke438686
Sullivan437465
Fulton431891
Orange420882
Jay409764
Rush403937
Carroll377549
Perry376755
Franklin375850
Vermillion352062
Parke319238
Pike316245
Tipton313774
Blackford271755
Pulaski270874
Newton231561
Brown226754
Benton215721
Crawford215131
Switzerland194214
Martin186722
Warren174821
Union165519
Ohio122616
Unassigned0739

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2439205

Reported Deaths: 31245
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2637212065
Cuyahoga2582743018
Hamilton1696091714
Montgomery1126771604
Summit1074271391
Lucas909371160
Butler80397942
Stark754911400
Lorain63313792
Warren51040475
Mahoning50162915
Lake47051605
Clermont44631429
Delaware39611212
Trumbull38910755
Medina37850419
Licking37593408
Fairfield34482334
Greene32823422
Portage31698360
Clark30769445
Richland28751423
Wood28217297
Allen24942395
Miami23274395
Muskingum22683245
Columbiana22370403
Wayne21565356
Tuscarawas19096427
Erie18282222
Ashtabula18102342
Marion17861232
Scioto17031207
Ross16556252
Pickaway15812178
Hancock15561228
Geauga15320223
Lawrence14172186
Union1359984
Huron13584182
Belmont13554247
Jefferson13090258
Sandusky12933199
Athens12126106
Knox11721198
Seneca11631200
Darke10950198
Ashland10916178
Washington10729168
Auglaize10364142
Crawford10062175
Shelby9961157
Brown9610140
Fulton9453150
Guernsey9304117
Highland9215148
Defiance9209135
Logan9114142
Clinton8950127
Mercer8816111
Madison8730106
Preble8145162
Williams8014135
Putnam7863135
Ottawa7752121
Champaign7696112
Jackson7510117
Perry725998
Coshocton7137136
Morrow706382
Fayette678287
Pike632586
Hardin6311128
Gallia605891
Adams5913124
Van Wert5877121
Henry577093
Hocking5634104
Carroll4877100
Wyandot487590
Holmes4787161
Paulding409064
Meigs380473
Monroe303368
Noble285051
Harrison284461
Morgan280348
Vinton245145
Unassigned08
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