The Walter C. Beckjord power plant in Ohio is one of many that have shut down rather than meet pollution rules. (Photo by Brett Ciccotelli via Creative Commons)
A case currently before the Supreme Court could decide whether coal-fired power plants can escape federal rules for mercury and other hazardous air emissions. The case has important consequences for Ohio and other parts of the Midwest.
On the one hand, utilities and other challengers argue that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unreasonably failed to consider costs in determining whether the regulations are appropriate.
On the other hand, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the new rules can save tens of billions of dollars in human health costs each year.
Advocates say those amounts and other costs shifted to society are essentially a subsidy for coal-powered electricity.
The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station at Oak Harbor, Ohio, would have a guaranteed buyer for all its output if the PUCO approves a FirstEnergy plan. Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski.
Papers filed last week by FirstEnergy in one of Ohio’s utility “bailout” cases suggest how approval of the plans could potentially give companies an edge in upcoming capacity auctions for the PJM grid area.
The proposals could mean more profits for utilities and their affiliated coal and nuclear plants. It could also mean problems for competitors, including natural gas generation, wind energy, solar power and alternative retail electric suppliers.
Ohio state Rep. Kristina Roegner. (Photo via Ohio House of Representatives)
The new chair of Ohio’s energy study committee, like her co-chair, has a track record of opposing renewable energy policy and ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Rep. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) is the new co-chair for Ohio’s Energy Mandates Study Committee with State Senator Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville).
Roegner’s first official meeting with the committee took place last Thursday in Columbus. She replaced outgoing Rep. Peter Stautberg as co-chair.
The legislative committee was formed last year as a result of Senate Bill 310, which Balderson sponsored.
Exelon’s Byron Generating Station in Illinois. (Photo by Michael Kappel via Creative Commons)
Cheap natural gas has upended the nation’s energy landscape and made aging nuclear power plants increasingly uncompetitive.
Yet the nuclear industry, which generates almost a fifth of the nation’s energy, has declared war not on gas but on wind and solar, which represent about 4 and 0.2 percent of our energy mix, respectively.
Nuclear generators have successfully fought against renewable and energy efficiency standards on the state level, and lobbied against tax incentives for wind and solar on the federal level. They’re in the process of securing changes in regional capacity markets that would benefit nuclear and harm solar and wind.
And as states develop their Clean Power Plans to fulfill the federal mandate to reduce carbon emissions, nuclear is often pitted against renewables.
Electrical infrastructure in Athens, Ohio. (Photo by quiddle via Creative Commons)
While Ohio lawmakers have largely put the brakes on the state’s clean energy policy, cities and counties are moving forward with their own initiatives.
Electricity aggregation has been a favorite cause of active groups and communities in the Buckeye State, grouping residents and small commercial customers together to purchase electricity, allowing for the leveraging of buying power to obtain lower generation rates.
Ohio enacted legislation allowing municipalities to aggregate in 2001. Since then, over 286 municipalities statewide have chosen electrical aggregation, according to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Major cities like Cleveland and Cincinnati offer 100 percent renewable electricity packages as a way to shrink their carbon footprints and power costs all at once.
Barkcamp State Park is one of several in Ohio that have been eyed for coal mining. (Photo by jcsullivan24 via Creative Commons)
Coal mining could still proceed at Ohio park and conservation lands, even after a subsidiary of Murray Energy Corporation withdrew its application to mine under part of Barkcamp State Park.
Trial is slated to start in July over a proposal to strip mine 65 acres of Brush Creek Wildlife Area in Jefferson County. That’s the equivalent of about 49 football fields.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) also reports that it has issued or received other permit applications for coal mining on state-owned property. Burr Oak State Park, Harrison State Forest, Egypt Valley Wildlife Area and other parcels are among the potentially affected properties.
Investments dropped dramatically when Ohio lawmakers proposed major cutbacks to the state’s clean energy standards. Chart from “Clean Economy Rising: Manufacturing powers clean energy in Ohio,” courtesy of Pew Charitable Trusts. (click to enlarge)
A drop in investments in Ohio’s clean energy industry could cost the state jobs, say industry experts. Matters could be made worse by continuing uncertainty about the future of Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.
Last week the Pew Charitable Trusts released a report documenting the huge growth in investments in Ohio’s clean energy industry in the years following adoption of those standards in 2008.
That same report also shows a huge drop after state lawmakers began debating changes to those standards in 2013. The study’s authors expect investment levels will stay low through at least 2017.
Photo by Mark Florence via Creative Commons.
An Ohio utility wants state regulators to let it disconnect some delinquent customers from electric utility service without any in-person visit to their home.
Opponents argue that the plan by American Electric Power’s Ohio Power Company runs counter to state law. Plus, they say, the plan and other aspects of smart-meter policies would unfairly burden low-income households and other vulnerable groups.
AEP’s remote-control disconnection plan would be a two-year “pilot” program covering approximately 130,000 customers in a test area who already have smart meters.
Meanwhile, AEP awaits PUCO approval to expand its gridSMART meter program by an additional 900,000 customers. Customers will pay added charges on their bills as areas get the new meters—whether they participate in the program or not.
(Photo by Bob Bertsch via Creative Commons)
While separate line items on electric bills will soon show how much Ohioans pay to meet the state’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, other fees will remain lumped into overall distribution charges.
Meanwhile, utilities hope to add yet more riders to customer bills in order to guarantee sales for affiliated power plants.
The requirement to break out charges for Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards results from Senate Bill 310, which Gov. John Kasich signed into law last June.
SB 310 freezes target levels and weakens Ohio’s clean energy standards in several respects. It also established an Energy Mandates Study Committee to review the charges and consider whether the standards should continue.
In December, PUCO chair Thomas Johnson testified not only about the renewable energy and energy efficiency charges, but also about a wide range of additional riders lumped into customers’ bills.
Bowling Green, Ohio. (Photo by Pierre Metivier via Creative Commons)
By Neocles Leontis
All across the Midwest, communities manacled to Prairie State Energy Campus are seeing their electricity rates go through the roof.
These small towns and cities, which include Paducah, Ky., Batavia, Ill., Galion, Ohio, and Bowling Green, Ohio—where I live—invested heavily in Prairie State Energy Campus after being sold a promise in 2007 of 50 years of cheap, clean, and reliable coal-fired electric power.
That promise was engineered by Peabody Energy and its utility-industry and Wall Street allies. The Prairie State Energy Campus web that ultimately ensnared so many communities came about mostly because Peabody had a mine full of dirty, low-grade coal to unload. The dream, as it was pitched, boiled down to this: Prairie State would operate off cheap coal from a Peabody mine just across the street, and the plant—in part because of its “mine-mouth” location—would be a low-cost generator providing customer communities with affordable electricity that would cost in the ballpark of $48 per megawatt hour.