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New version of nuclear bailout bill would bolster solar projects in state

A Senate committee on Monday rolled out yet another version of a bill that bails out the state’s two nuclear plants, but now increases support for renewable energy in Ohio while still promising lower electricity bills for consumers.

The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee could vote on House Bill 6 as soon as Wednesday after considering more amendments, said Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, the committee’s chairman.

“We still have more work to do on this bill, but we’re really close,” he said during the committee meeting Monday.

As has been the case since the legislation was introduced in the spring, FirstEnergy Solutions, the operator of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants in northern Ohio, would be the big winner under the proposal.

The company, spun off from Akron-based FirstEnergy and operating under bankruptcy protection, has said it will shut down the plants unless it gets help. The plants are the main source of carbon dioxide-free electricity in the state and provide about 1,400 jobs between them.

Starting next year, customers would pay 85 cents a month on their electricity bill with nearly 90% of the money raised by that fee,... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A Senate committee on Monday rolled out yet another version of a bill that bails out the state’s two nuclear plants, but now increases support for renewable energy in Ohio while still promising lower electricity bills for consumers.

The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee could vote on House Bill 6 as soon as Wednesday after considering more amendments, said Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, the committee’s chairman.

“We still have more work to do on this bill, but we’re really close,” he said during the committee meeting Monday.

As has been the case since the legislation was introduced in the spring, FirstEnergy Solutions, the operator of the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants in northern Ohio, would be the big winner under the proposal.

The company, spun off from Akron-based FirstEnergy and operating under bankruptcy protection, has said it will shut down the plants unless it gets help. The plants are the main source of carbon dioxide-free electricity in the state and provide about 1,400 jobs between them.

Starting next year, customers would pay 85 cents a month on their electricity bill with nearly 90% of the money raised by that fee, or about $150 million year, used to shore up those plants. The rest of the money, about $20 million a year, would support solar projects to be developed in Ohio.

The legislation identifies six solar projects that likely would be eligible for funding.

The money for FirstEnergy Solutions would be subject to annual review, so the subsidy could be reduced or eliminated in future years if it were no longer necessary. The subsidy would be discontinued by 2026.

Beyond the support for solar projects, the bill would require the state to get 8.5% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2026, but would drop the requirement after that.

The bill reduces targets that power companies would need to hit for energy efficiency, which lowers costs for that program as early as 2021.

That reduction, along with elimination of the fees consumers pay for renewable energy, would reduce consumer bills by an average of $2.82 per month. The savings would rise to $3.78 per month by 2027, according to a report on the bill.

“Our goal of getting our ratepayers a reduction has been met,” Wilson said.

The legislation, which would be the biggest overhaul of the state’s energy laws since Ted Strickland was governor, has turned into a tug of war over broader issues of renewable energy, bailouts of private companies and politics.

Pressure to support the bill has been intense.

For example, a multimillion-dollar statewide television, radio and mail campaign is in full swing, and local public officials and a cadre of industry lobbyists are pushing for the bill. Democrats have been pressed by a variety of trade unions.

The new Senate version of the bill also continues to have a bailout for two coal-fired power plants, one in Ohio and one in Indiana.

The plants, owned by American Electric Power as part of group of power companies called the Ohio Valley Electric Corp., would require payments of up to $1.50 a month from consumers through 2030.

The bill would drop a provision from the House version that allows for referendums on wind projects. Wilson has promised to consider legislation on that issue separately after residents from throughout the state have complained that they don’t have enough say about wind projects planned for their communities.

The bill already is having some potential fallout.

One power company, New Jersey-based LS Power, said Monday that it would cancel a $500 million expansion project of its natural gas-fired plant in Luckey in northwestern Ohio if the bill passes with the subsidies for the nuclear plants.

“The handouts to nuclear plants jeopardize ... could chill investment and lead to the unintended consequence of reduced reliability for Ohio’s electric generation fleet,” the company said in a statement.


Source: https://www.dispatch.com/ne...

JUL 16 2019
http://www.windaction.org/posts/50035-new-version-of-nuclear-bailout-bill-would-bolster-solar-projects-in-state
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