Consumer Groups Oppose GOP Effort To Change State Utility Laws


A complicated bill aimed at changing Ohio's energy laws could be approved Wednesday by a majority of Republican lawmakers, even while some consumer and business groups oppose it.

"People's bills are going to go higher," said Marty Berkowitz from the Ohio Consumers' Counsel.

Berkowtiz says the bill would increase an average utility bill in Ohio $528 dollars over the next three years.

"Businesses, over that same three year plan, are going to be paying an additional $3,000," said Berkowitz.

Berkowitz says the bill will allow utilities like AEP and FirstEnergy to keep a higher percentage of their profits.

It would allow an energy company to reward itself with a bonus when it proves that it helped customers use less power by installing energy efficient equipment.

That, in turn will mean less savings for consumers and businesses.

Louis Pappas has owned and operated Milo's Deli for over 15 years.

He says with all the energy efficiency plans in place he's confused why utility costs are rising for small businesses already struggling in this economy.

"When you look at all the different costs we have between health care and vehicles and staffing, every penny you can save you want to keep in house," said Pappas.  

The bill's sponsor, Republican state senator Bill Seitz, says the opposition has it all wrong.

"I think that is fuzzy math," said Seitz.  "I think consumers will pay less with the bill than without the bill."

Seitz says he's setting a cap on the profits that utilities can receive, and preparing the public for the higher costs of renewable energy like solar and wind.

"We're trying to avoid the hockey stick effect of these mandates kicking into high gear," said Seitz.

Current law calls for a 22.5 percent reduction in power use through energy efficiency between 2009 and 2025.

Pappas says he doesn't know which side is right, but he's tired of paying more with little to show for it.

"You hear about fracking, you hear about wind and solar and all these different technologies," said Pappas.  "We'd like to start seeing the benefits of these practices put to good work."

The Ohio Manufactures Association opposes the bill.

They say billions of dollars in energy efficient savings are at stake.

A spokesman for FirstEnergy told 10TV that he believes the bill will reduce costs for consumers.