PUCO chairman wants to “change the dialogue” on energy policy in Ohio

Asim Haque wants to “change the dialogue” about energy policy in Ohio; the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) wants the commission to focus on electricity distribution, not generation, Columbus Business First reports. The PUCO “kickstarted” the effort to making that change “with a days-long conference called PowerForward (see our March 13, 2017 blog post),” according to the article. PowerForward “is a review of new tech and regulatory innovations with an eye toward how the changes will affect the power grid. . . . the wonkish embodiment of what Haque wants the PUCO to become — to focus on how power is delivered and used by customers.” Haque “said he has made a point of reaching out to lawmakers about energy issues.” He “sees his job as not trying to influence lawmakers,” but rather “to act as an adviser who helps them see both sides of issues and peel away the layers of lobbyist speak.” For more, read the full article.


Bricker wins ILTA “Innovative Project of the Year” for pipeline project involvement

Bricker & Eckler shone at the 2017 International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) national conference, winning the top prize in one category of the Distinguished Peer Awards, “Innovative Project of the Year – External/Client-Facing Category,” for the firm’s development of a unique technology solution on behalf of an energy client. Read more >>

Miscellaneous, Shale

New Ohio House bill would deregulate power market

Could Ohio’s power market soon become deregulated? House Bill 247 (HB 247), introduced by Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R), “would overturn the state’s current electric power regime and replace it with a fuller version of deregulation,” UtilityDive reports. Since 2008, the state’s power market has been regulated by the Energy Security Plan (ESP), “Ohio’s version of integrated resource plans,” but HB 247 “would eliminate the ESP and force utilities to base customer rates on wholesale power market prices,” according to the article. American Electric Power and FirstEnergy have been pushing for years “to secure financial support for a group of ailing baseload generators, including coal and nuclear plants.” HB 247 “would look to end” the debates over those subsidies “by forcing regulated utilities to divest their generation assets.” For more, read the full article


Ohio utility wholesale auctions clear above $50/MWh

State regulators in Ohio recently accepted results of wholesale power auctions from utilities with prices clearing above $50/MWh, UtilityDive reports. Dayton Power & Light Co.’s auction had “competitive supplier bids on one-, two- and three-year supply contracts clearing at prices from $48.65/MWh to $51.45/MWh.”  Duke Energy submitted auction results “for a one-year supply contract at a clearing price of $50.71/MWh,” according to the article. The results “will be blended with future auctions to establish a price for utility customers to compare with competitive options, which they can choose to take.” Clearing prices have “remained relatively steady” in Ohio over the past few years, even as the state has seen retiring baseload generation as aging coal-fired plants have closed (see our April 9, 2015 blog post). For more, read the full article


AEP supports FirstEnergy’s request for zero-emission tax credits

FirstEnergy is requesting approval from Ohio legislatures for zero-emission tax credits to keep two nuclear power plants—the Davis-Besse plant and the Perry plant—afloat, UtilityDive reports. Fellow Ohio utility American Electric Power (AEP) has expressed support for those subsidies, so long as AEP customers do not pay for them. FirstEnergy’s proposal would keep those plants “generating carbon-free energy through their expected lifespan,” but “the extra costs would be borne by consumers and could affect market revenues for gas generators.” 

FirstEnergy and AEP “both won support for struggling coal and nuclear generation from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio” last year, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “subsequently blocked the deals, leading to talk of plant sales and re-regulation as many aging baseload plants struggle to compete with low-cost natural gas and renewable energy.” For more, read the full article

Environmental, Miscellaneous

Ohio voters oppose utility re-regulation, want to keep energy choice

While Ohio’s “traditional monopoly power companies” lobby state lawmakers to “return to a fully regulated system,” a recent poll shows a majority of voters are opposed to changing from a competitive market to one with less choice, Cleveland.com reports. Fallon Research and Communications polled “more than 800 Ohio voters” in January 2017, and found that “[m]ore than 91 percent would oppose any law change allowing FirstEnergy or Columbus-based AEP to build new power plants and raise monthly rates to pay for them,” according to the article. In addition, “[n]early 79 percent would oppose any legislation that did away with a customer’s choice to shop for power suppliers.” American Electric Power (AEP), FirstEnergy and Dayton Power & Light “have already been talking about ‘re-structuring’” as state legislators “consider changing Ohio’s 16-year embrace of competition.” For more, read the full article


Will Ohio lawmakers re-regulate state’s power market in 2017?

Re-regulation of Ohio’s power market “will get a long, hard look at the Statehouse this year,” as American Electric Power Company Inc. (AEP) pushes a proposal arguing that “deregulation is harming [AEP] so much that its remaining power pants in the state are too expensive to operate and has made it too costly to build new ones,” Columbus Business First reports. However, “developers building natural gas-fueled power stations in the state,” which are privately funded, “warn that a return to a regulated marketplace would force them out and make it more expensive for Ohio electricity consumers.” Companies with high power consumption also “want to keep the ability to shop for the lowest rates through retailer energy sellers,” according to the article. AEP has said it will continue to allow customers to shop for power. For more, read the full article.


U.S. Supreme Court decision may undercut PUCO's recent PPAs for Ohio utilities

On April 19, 2016, the United States Supreme Court, in Hughes v. Talen Energy Marketing, LLC, unanimously (8-0) struck down an order from Maryland’s Public Service Commission which “impermissibly intrudes upon the wholesale electric market, a domain Congress reserved to [the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] FERC alone.” The ripples from the Court’s decision may well affect two cases recently decided by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), also involving subsidized power purchase agreements between regulated utilities (American Electric Power-Ohio (AEP) and FirstEnergy Corp. (FE)) and their unregulated generation affiliates. For more information, read Bricker’s article, “U.S. Supreme Court decision may undercut recent PUCO decisions approving ratepayer-subsidized power purchase agreements for Ohio utilities.”

Miscellaneous, Renewable Energy

Join us for Bricker & Eckler’s Energy Exchange event

Energy companies, policy makers, regulators, business owners and others are invited to Bricker & Eckler’s biannual “Energy Exchange” event on Thursday, March 31, 2016, in Columbus, Ohio.  This free-of-charge networking and educational opportunity will address the latest trends, rules and regulations impacting the energy industry. Bricker attorneys will discuss power purchase agreement matters pending before state and federal regulatory agencies; the status of renewable energy legislation, such as Senate Bill 310; and eminent domain related issues impacting pipeline development in Ohio. Additionally, keynote speaker Robin Rorick, the American Petroleum Institute's Group Director of Midstream and Industry Operations, will address the audience.

Visit the Energy Exchange event page for more information or to register.  


PUCO Nominating Council seeks applicants to fill commissioner seat

Next spring, a seat will open up next on the five-member panel responsible for regulating Ohio’s public utilities. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council is accepting applications for a five-year commissioner appointment that begins in April 2016, according to a recent PUCO press release. Applications must be submitted by January 14, 2016; the Nominating Council will then “narrow the list to those most qualified for the position” before interviewing selected applicants, according to the release. The council will “recommend four finalists to Gov. John R. Kasich,” who will then have 30 days to “either appoint a commissioner from the list or request a new list from the Nominating Council.” Appointments are subject to Ohio Senate confirmation.

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