Ohio electric bills needlessly high

Millions of Ohioans are being ripped off on their electricity bills – but not necessarily by utility companies. Blame the “green” community and a politically correct state government for the cost.

FirstEnergy, which provides electricity to about 2 million customers in the Buckeye State, was ordered Wednesday to pay, through credits on utility bills, $43.3 million to families and businesses in its service area. The order came from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

PUCO members agreed with complaints FirstEnergy had overcharged customers for “renewables” purchases. The company disagrees strenuously and plans to appeal the ruling.

It all stems from a state law requiring Ohio electric companies to provide at least 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025. The law is being phased in.

Electric companies do not actually have to build “renewable” generating stations to obey the law. In Ohio, it would be astronomically expensive for electric companies to build new wind- and solar-power facilities capable of meeting one-fourth of demand. Instead, utilities can buy renewable credits from firms that do operate such facilities. That is part of FirstEnergy’s plan for complying with the mandate.

PUCO analysts and other critics argue FirstEnergy bought the credits through a subsidiary, paying it 15 times more than necessary, resulting in the commission’s $43.3 million order.

But every utility in Ohio is required to meet the renewables mandate. Even if they do so at prices acceptable to the PUCO, customers have to pay for those credits. That makes electric bills much higher than if Ohioans were charged simply for the cost of generating electricity, perhaps through coal- or natural-gas fired stations.

To our knowledge, the added cost has not been calculated. But think about it: Judging solely by the alleged overcharges by FirstEnergy, the price tag for the renewables mandate must be gigantic.

Again, it is an unnecessary burden on Ohioans, straining household budgets needlessly and making it more difficult for businesses to compete and create jobs.

Ohio legislators should never have enacted the renewables mandate in the first place. Now, they should switch it off.