FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant on the shore of Lake Erie. (Photo by Jeff Reutter via Creative Commons)
Two Ohio utilities are pursuing state and federal regulatory actions to help make their coal and nuclear plants more competitive.
FirstEnergy has filed a complaint asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to void May’s capacity auction by grid operator PJM Interconnection to the extent that it includes demand response. Demand response satisfies electricity needs at peak periods as a result of certain users agreeing to temporary cutbacks.
Meanwhile, American Electric Power (AEP) is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to let it charge consumers for some of the costs for certain coal-fired power plants.
If they succeed, the utilities could get more money for power plants that presumably could not otherwise compete as well against other resources in the electric capacity market.
(Photo by Carlos Lowry via Creative Commons)
While energy-saving efforts have been keeping costs down for Ohio ratepayers, a legislative “freeze” to the state’s efficiency standard raises questions about whether that will continue, particularly with new EPA carbon regulations on the horizon.
The capacity portion of Ohioans’ electric bills will go up for June 2017 through May 2018 as a result of May’s auction by grid operator PJM Interconnection. If it weren’t for energy efficiency, though, experts say the closing price of $120 per megawatt-day (MW-day) for Ohio and various other parts of PJM’s territory would have been even higher.
Last week’s passage of Ohio Senate Bill 310 raises doubts about how much energy efficiency can help Ohio consumers in future auctions.
A pipeline failure caused an explosion in Fairport Harbor, Ohio in 2011. AP Photo/The News Herald, Michael Allen Blair. (click to enlarge)
Despite ongoing safety concerns and the urging of state regulators, the Ohio legislature has so far passed up an opportunity to impose tougher penalties on those who break safety rules for natural gas pipelines.
Ohio House Bill 483 had a provision to double penalties for safety violations when it was introduced in March. However, the version passed by the Ohio House of Representatives last month eliminated that section.
While fines for violations are rare, resource-strapped regulators say they provide a critical incentive for compliance with safety rules.
HB 483 is part of the Ohio’s Mid-Biennium Budget Review. The Ohio Senate Finance Committee reported the bill out this week, and the Senate passed it on Wednesday. Any differences between the House and Senate versions will require resolution by a conference committee.
Although most of HB 483 addresses other subjects, proposed and deleted energy issues touch on public safety and other concerns.
Ford employee John Wooten assembles an EcoBoost V-6 engine at a plant in Lima, Ohio. Photo via Ford Motor Company. (Click to enlarge)
With the help of the U.S. Department of Energy, Ford Motor Co. now boasts that since 2009 — through expanding production of fuel-efficient vehicles — it has avoided 2.38 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions and saved 268 million gallons of gasoline.
The company reached a milestone in early May when it sold its 500,000th F-150 pickup truck equipped with a fuel-efficient EcoBoost engine. Ford credits the V-6 truck engine for nearly one-fifth of the fuel savings it attributes to the EcoBoost fleet, which also includes four- and three-cylinder engines used in smaller cars.
Driving that progress was a $5.9 billion loan from the federal government to transform 13 factories across six states into state-of-the-art assembly plants.
(Photo via Department of Energy)
Bill Whittenberger co-founded his Ohio-based company Catacel Corp. in 2001 upon recognizing a niche for catalysts that manage heat and chemical reactions.
It wasn’t long before the fledgling entrepreneur heard about another potential power source that was creating buzz at the time.
“There was all this talk in Ohio about fuel cells,” said Whittenberger. “We were looking for something else to do, and we thought we could help with that.”
Thirteen years after Catacel’s inception, the company is now supplying more than $2 million worth of fuel cells and related components each year to an industry escalating nationwide.
“Without fuel cells, we’d be dead,” he said.
The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. (Photo by Mike King via Creative Commons)
Critics showed up in force this week as Ohio’s House of Representatives began hearings on a bill that would dramatically alter the state’s clean energy laws.
The Public Utilities Committee for the Ohio House could vote on the bill as early as next week. If Senate Bill 310 becomes law, it could hurt both consumers and businesses, say opponents.
As passed by the state Senate last week, SB 310 would freeze Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy standards for two years, pushing final targets from 2025 to 2027. Meanwhile, a study commission would review the law’s mandates.
However, last-minute changes made to the bill would also dramatically change both standards.
“They essentially gutted the standards, so that when they do come back they’ll be essentially meaningless,” says Ted Ford, president of Ohio Advanced Energy Economy.
(Photo by Peggy Riley via Creative Commons)
The debate over Ohio’s energy laws took another turn Tuesday, as Republican lawmakers introduced a substitute bill that threatens to destroy a compromise plan developed over the past few days.
State Sen. Bill Seitz, who chairs the Senate Public Utilities Committee released a substitute bill late Tuesday afternoon that would impose a three-year freeze, eliminate in-state requirements for renewable energy, and make other changes to the state’s energy law.
The bill would undo the work done by legislators, consumer, business, and environmental groups on a proposed compromise that would have preserved the state’s efficiency and renewable energy standards, but with significant changes.
Cooling tower at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station at Oak Harbor, Ohio. Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski.
At the same time that FirstEnergy is pursuing a 20-year operating license extension for its Davis-Besse nuclear plant in Ohio, the utility also wants more time to demonstrate that it complies with fire safety standards.
FirstEnergy wants the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to give it until December 31, 2015 to show how the plant will meet risk-based standards for preventing and responding to fire.
The company’s submittal would otherwise have been due on June 30.
Yellow flags mark the location of utility pipelines near Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Kathiann M. Kowalski)
Ohio’s natural gas utilities are replacing more than 11,000 miles of the state’s aging gas pipe mains, in an effort to reduce the risks for catastrophes like last month’s gas explosion in New York City.
However, three of Ohio’s four large natural gas utilities are only about a fourth of the way into their 20- and 25-year replacement programs.
And while few would argue about the need for new pipelines, the programs have hefty price tags. By the time all four programs finish, Ohio consumers will pay approximately $6 billion.
A combined heat and power system at Toledo’s Huntington Center supplements the 8,000-seat arena’s heating, cooling and electricity needs. (Photo courtesy GEM Energy)
Ohio businesses can achieve high energy efficiency and save huge amounts of money with combined heat and power (CHP), say industry leaders who attended an Energy Ohio Network program on Wednesday.
However, speakers and program attendees say, Ohio’s regulatory and legislative landscape have made it harder for businesses to reap those benefits.
The good and bad news for CHP is part of the bigger picture for energy efficiency in Ohio.
On the “good news” front, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) issued a new report finding that Ohio and other states with energy efficiency standards have already saved enough electricity to power nearly 2 million homes for a year.
Meanwhile, the Ohio Senate’s Public Utilities Committee continued hearings on Senate Bill 310. That bill would cancel any additional energy efficiency targets after 2014. If enacted, the bill would eliminate another potential benefit for CHP.