FirstEnergy announced its new plan to make Ohio consumers assume all the risk of its unregulated, competitive generation fleet and called it, "Powering Ohio's Progress." But, let's get real here, FirstEnergy should really call it "Powering Our Profits," because that's its purpose.
And I blame the birth of this ridiculous scheme on the West Virginia Public Service Commission, who set up West Virginia's consumers to absorb the company's risk on its Harrison power station last year. In that scheme, West Virginia customers took on the burden of paying the operating costs of the Harrison power station by purchasing all its generation. In turn, FirstEnergy would sell any excess power into regional markets and return the profit it earned doing so to the consumers. Sounds great, right? However, the cost of owning and operating Harrison is greater than any profits that may be derived from selling excess power into the market, therefore, consumers would end up paying more. But, the WV PSC added one important term to its crazy plan that required the company to use the profits from market sales of power to pay down the "acquisition adjustment" fee of acquiring Harrison that was added to rates.
It is because the WVPSC allowed FirstEnergy to foist the risk of owning and operating Harrison onto its consumers that FirstEnergy got so encouraged to attempt to foist the risk of two of its other competitive plants onto Ohio consumers.
But, the big difference here is that West Virginia is a fully regulated state, while Ohio is a competitive state. In Ohio, electric customers can choose their generation supplier, but not their distribution provider. The electric distribution system is owned and operated by the utility who traditionally served the customers. Even deregulated states cannot change that, unless they allow other companies to construct their own separate distribution system to serve customers, and that's neither economic nor logical. Therefore, even in deregulated states, customers are still served by, and receive a bill from, their regulated distribution provider. Where generation is competitive, the distribution company simply adds the charge from your generation company to your bill and passes the costs through to you.
FirstEnergy's Powering Our Profits surcharge would be tied to its regulated distribution affiliates in Ohio. The charge is non-bypassable, which means that it would be part of your distribution service and you would pay it no matter who your generation provider is.
So, let's look at this... FirstEnergy Solutions is the FirstEnergy subsidiary that owns the competitive generators. As the owner, FES must cover the entire cost to own and operate the plants, and in return it keeps any profits or absorbs any losses that result from selling the generation into the competitive power market. But, market prices have been low and are not expected to recover any time soon. This means that FES has been subject to more losses than profits from the generators it owns. So, FirstEnergy's scheme will force its regulated distribution companies to enter into a contract to purchase all the power generated by FES's plants at a set price that will cover FES's costs and pay it an 11% profit. Suddenly, FES's generators are profitable and risk-free! But the distribution customers have a bunch of very expensive power they have purchased. Can they use it? No! FirstEnergy's POP plan requires the distribution companies to sell the generation they have purchased into the competitive power market at whatever price it can get. FirstEnergy says that in the first three years, where prices can be predicted, the distribution companies and their ratepayers will take a loss on the sale of power. However, FirstEnergy says that its crystal ball predicts that power prices will rise in the remaining years of the 15 year contract and that a profit will be made selling purchased power into the market. Gotta ask... if FirstEnergy is so certain there's a profit for these competitive generation plants just over the horizon, why don't they hold on them? Because there isn't. It's all smoke and mirrors, hopes and dreams.
FirstEnergy wants to hand the risky hot potato of owning uncompetitive generators to its Ohio distribution customers so that they can absorb the risk of market prices.
What a bunch of crooks!