FirstEnergy Faces Foes, Regulators Over Renewables

Thu, 09/19/2013 - 9:49am
Julie Carr Smyth, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohioans may soon see activists at their doors urging them to steer clear of a northeast Ohio power company that the environmentalists say is working against the state's alternative energy goals.

The campaign announced Wednesday by the 17,000-member Ohio Sierra Club is the second of its kind to target Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. and its retail affiliate, FirstEnergy Solutions. A separate coalition called Stop FirstEnergy Hikes is pushing a parallel effort.

Sierra Club members said at an Ohio Statehouse event that the group plans to unleash an onslaught of advertising, emails and volunteer neighborhood canvassers to discourage customers from choosing FirstEnergy Solutions.

"By attacking our state's clean energy standards," said organizer Rashay Layman, "FirstEnergy is telling Ohioans it doesn't care about creating more jobs or saving them money through energy efficiency programs — programs that help everyday people lower their electric bills, save money and cut down on air pollution from coal-fired power plants."

FirstEnergy spokesman Doug Colafella called the environmentalists' campaign misleading.

"Firstenergy's successfully meeting the targets, we're achieving the annual goals and our customer programs are successful. They're working," he said. "So it's a disappointment that his campaign should mislead consumers and cause them to miss out on an opportunity to further reduce their energy bills."

He defended the company's lobbying efforts for some modifications to future energy mandates as a way to save Ohioans and Ohio businesses money.

State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, has held a series of hearings examining the state's "25 by '25" energy standard that requires power companies to draw 25 percent of their energy from alternative sources such as wind, solar and clean coal by 2025.

"The idea is not to dismantle the energy efficiency standards," Colafella said. "It's to maintain the targets but to employ a few changes that should reduce what customers should have to pay."

Last month, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ordered FirstEnergy to credit back $43.3 million it overcharged customers for renewables it purchased as Ohio's alternative-energy market was developing. The commission has agreed to shield certain information on the charges that it deems trade secrets.

On Wednesday, the regulatory panel agreed to further review several legal issues in the case.


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