Yesterday, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) ordered that FirstEnergy refund $43.3M to its Ohio distribution affiliates' customers within 60 days. The PUCO found that Ohio Edison Company, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, and The Toledo Edison Company had grossly overpaid for renewable energy credits purchased from their own FirstEnergy Solutions affiliate and then recovered these exorbitant costs from consumers. In other words, FirstEnergy bought something from itself that was overpriced.
That's the good news. Now for the bad news.
FirstEnergy has vowed to appeal the decision. Any refunds due to customers will thus be held until the appeals process has exhausted itself. FirstEnergy intends to continue to pour millions into avoiding refunds due to struggling electric consumers, and if they are successful, consumers will end up footing the bill for the cost of that too, adding insult to injury. How long will FirstEnergy deny the consumers their refund? Maybe forever.
This whole thing smacks of a badly executed bit of play acting by PUCO and FirstEnergy executives. Everyone knows that FirstEnergy has stacked PUCO with its bought and paid for "yes" men.
This investigation has been going on for years. A decision was expected last week, but PUCO delayed it a week "to allow time to fine tune an order addressing whether the Akron-based utility overpaid for renewable energy credits and passed those excess costs on to customers." Fine tuning my eye, the decision was delayed until AFTER FirstEnergy's 2Q Earnings Call on Tuesday so that FirstEnergy's executives wouldn't have to suffer through questions about it, and so it wouldn't drag down FirstEnergy's already disappointing financial results for the quarter. So, FirstEnergy, where are you going to get the money to pay back this $43.3M that you stole from your customers? Inquiring minds want to know...
PUCO ruled that all the financial information related to its decision must be kept secret. This prevents the public from doing its own independent calculation of just how much they were ripped off. Other parties in the case contend that the theft from consumers actually amounted to more like $130M.
So, if FirstEnergy profited by selling RECs to itself in the amount of $130M, a refund of $43M is a small price to pay. FirstEnergy still comes out ahead by $87M. The company has actually been rewarded for stealing from its customers. What PUCO should really be looking into is FirstEnergy's corporate separation issues. The company is selling things to itself at outrageous prices because ratepayers are paying the bill. "Arm's length negotiation" means nothing when Tony's left arm is shaking hands with Tony's right arm, just before plunging both arms into YOUR pocket.
It's well known that PUCO is stacked with bought and paid for FirstEnergy puppets. This decision and its timing evokes imagination of the negotiations that must have occurred between FirstEnergy and PUCO to set it up to look like FirstEnergy was punished, when it was actually rewarded for stealing from the customers PUCO is sworn to protect.
Read about it here.
Meanwhile, FirstEnergy has attacked Ohio's Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency standards as "too expensive for consumers." Maybe someone needs to look into all FirstEnergy's programs to find out why they are "too expensive." Is FirstEnergy cheating on EE recovery too?
And the bad juju continues to build...