Restoring energy rates a vital action by PUCO
Here in Cuyahoga County, many residents of the 16th House District have been affected by the recent energy rate change for all-electric homes by FirstEnergy Corp. I have received countless phone calls, emails and letters about this issue, and I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the issue and the steps that have been taken to mitigate the problem.
For the past 30 years, customers who owned all-electric homes were offered significant discounts on their energy bills. The discount was first implemented when FirstEnergy sought to lower the cost of electricity during the energy crisis of the 1970s.
These rates began to change when FirstEnergy decided to eliminate the discounted rate for new customers starting in 2007, and customers who already received the discount had their rates “grandfathered,” provided that they stay at the same residence.
However, in a separate ruling, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved FirstEnergy’s request to increase all-electric rates starting in January 2009. Due to this rate increase, those customers who had previously enjoyed the discount were slapped with massive rate increases as they switched over to the standard rate. This winter, more than 100,000 customers suffered rate increases of 60 to 100 percent, which translates to an additional $300 to $900.
Because of the overwhelming response from customers who have seen their energy bills skyrocket, FirstEnergy proposed an eight-year phase-out of the all-electric discount, while temporarily offering additional discounts during the winter months. The PUCO will need to approve the new phase-out plan before it can take effect.
Here in the Legislature, we took steps to address this growing concern. Republican senators Tom Patton and Timothy Grendell recently held a town hall meeting to discuss the issue with individuals with all-electric homes and to find a fair solution. Additionally, Senator Grendell filed a class-action lawsuit to restore the energy discount on behalf of all-electric households.
On March 3, the PUCO finally directed FirstEnergy to file tariffs that will return the customers’ charges to those that were in effect as of December 31, 2008. The PUCO also will investigate and file a report within 90 days that outlines the appropriate long-term rates that should be provided to FirstEnergy’s all-electric residential customers.
It is important that legislators, state agencies and corporations alike keep their promises to the people of this great state. With unemployment still in the double digits, the last thing families need is skyrocketing electric bills and unexpected expenses. I applaud this decision by PUCO to restore the old energy rates and protect the citizens of Northeast Ohio. As your state representative, I will do my best to keep you updated about this issue and fight for your interests in the Statehouse.
If you have any further questions about the FirstEnergy rate increases, I encourage you to contact my office at 614-466-0961. You may also write to me at Representative Nan Baker, 77 S. High Street, 10th Floor Columbus, Ohio 43215 or email me at District16@ohr.state.oh.us.
Nan Baker is the State Representative for Ohio's 16th District and lives in Westlake.