The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (“PUCO”) has just ordered that FirstEnergy must modify its proposal to use a light bulb distribution program as a means through which to meet the energy efficiency requirements established by S.B. 221. Among other things, S.B. 221, passed in 2008, requires electric utilities to implement programs designed to reduce energy consumption by over 22 percent by 2025.
FirstEnergy had proposed the program to distribute compact fluorescent light bulbs (“CFLs”) to its customers as a way reap energy savings for 2009 and meet the benchmarks established in the law. But the plan was criticized because of how the company proposed to pay for it—with added charges on customers’ electric bills. FirstEnergy would have sent CFLs to customers—whether or not they asked for them—and then billed ratepayers 60 cents per month for the service.
Following a hearing on October 28, the PUCO ordered FirstEnergy to revise the plan by November 30.
This plan suffered from poor public relations planning from the start. (Explain how you can charge customers for bulbs and call it a “giveaway program”??) It’ll be interesting to see what revised plan FirstEnergy comes up with by November 30—but asking consumers’ to pay for energy efficiency may always be a tough sell.
At this point, the OELC has not intervened in the case, although the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and the Natural Resources Defense Council and others are parties. As always, though, we will be keeping a close eye on FirstEnergy’s compliance with S.B. 221.