New ‘clean air’ bill would benefit FirstEnergy nuclear plants

A bill has been introduced into the Ohio House of Representatives that would replace renewable and efficiency energy standards, creating a new fund and authority to support solar, wind and nuclear power.

The bill would charge Dayton-area and all Ohio residential power customers $2.50 a month to support a bankrupt energy company’s nuclear power plants near Lake Erie.

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The bill would replace the current regimen, which rewards Ohio power providers for making renewable energy sources part of their overall portfolio.

Some observers have long expected Ohio lawmakers to consider a bill that would subsidize nuclear operations, particularly ones managed by bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions.

Talk of legislation to subsidize the Northern Ohio plants has been persistent in recent weeks.

The bill introduced last week by Reps Jamie Callender, R-Concord Twp., and Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro, would create an “Ohio Clean Air Program” to provide incentives to build and maintain zero and reduced carbon emissions generation facilities “while lowering customers’ electric utility bills,” a press release for the bill says.

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“We all have a duty to be stewards of the environment,” Speaker Larry Householder said in a statement. “We can all agree that we need to improve the quality of our air, water and ground. We must ensure these are as clean as practical and we leave our environment healthy for our children and grandchildren.”

It’s not about supporting any one particular source of low-emissions energy, Householder said in a press conference Friday.

“It’s about all of the above; I’m a believer in all of the energy sources in the state of Ohio,” Householder said.

The new program would replace monthly charges with a new charge, one that sponsors say would for most customers be lower.

Currently, the average residential customer pays $4.39 in “mandates” for renewables, according to the legislation’s sponsors. The proposed bill will save on average $1.89 under this new program, they say.

The new statewide rate for the Clean Air Program would be: $2.50 per month for residential customers; $20 per month for commercial customers; $250 per month for industrial customers; and $2,500 per month for very large users (using 45 million KWh a year).

The bill — House Bill 6  — would create a fund and program, administered by the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority or OAQDA.

Sponsors expect the new program will collect about$300 million per year. FirstEnergy nuclear plants — operating near Toledo and Cleveland — would be eligible for about $170 million of that.

FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiaries have announced plans to close the state’s two reactors in two years without legislation to support them.

“This legislation looks to Ohio’s energy future by investing in clean energy,” said bill co-sponsor Wilkin. “It addresses the global need of generating power and balancing it with a portfolio of supporting cleaner resources to meet the state’s demand.”

The bill will be assigned to the Ohio House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and will be considered by the Sub-committee on Energy Generation.

“We are analyzing the proposed law that we just received today, for how it may affect the electric bills of millions of Ohioans,” Merrilee Embs, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, said in a statement. “We look forward to participating in the legislative process to make recommendations on consumers’ behalf.”

The consumers counsel’s office prefers “lower prices and higher innovation from power plant competition, without paying subsidies to power plant owners,” Embs added. “Further, Ohioans would benefit if FirstEnergy were to adopt a business model that does not rely upon subsidies from consumers for its success.”

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