COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio regulators are proposing that companies get breaks of up to 20 percent on their electric bills based on the number of jobs they create and investments in the state, while other electric customers would pay more to cover much of the discounts.
The plan is drawing mixed reactions from business groups and is on the radar of a state consumer watchdog, The Columbus Dispatch reported Tuesday.
The idea is meant "to facilitate economic development and attract jobs to Ohio," Beth Trombold, a spokeswoman for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, told the newspaper. The proposal was developed by the regulatory agency with state economic development leaders.
Other states such as North Carolina already have similar electricity savings programs, so Ohio has an opportunity to become competitive, said Kevin Schmidt, director of energy services for the Ohio Manufacturers' Association.
The proposed electricity discounts would start at 2 percent for a company that hires 75 workers with new payroll of at least $5 million, or invests $50 million on buildings and equipment — minimum requirements that would appear to limit the savings to larger businesses. The discounts would be offset largely by a charge on other ratepayers, expected to include residential customers and smaller businesses, the Dispatch reported.
An official with a trade group primarily made up of small businesses is wary.
"In general, our organization has never supported the government picking winners and losers," said Chris Ferruso, Ohio legislative director for the National Federation of Independent Business.
Ohio's advocate for residential utility customers, The Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, is eyeing the plan and withholding comment, for now.
"We support economic development done in a thoughtful way which creates long-term jobs and improves the economy of the state of Ohio," said Marty Berkowitz, a spokesman for the office.
The potential top savings would be 20 percent if a firm adds 125 or more workers with new payroll of at least $17.5 million, and has capital spending of at least $200 million.
The PUCO is currently gathering comments and could act on the proposal as early as September.