May 2, 2024

State to audit House Bill 6 coal plant subsidies from 2021 to 2023


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is looking for auditors to examine the books of several utilities that have investments in coal-fired power plants.

The committee will look into whether hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies the companies collected from Ohio electricity customers between 2021 and 2023 were legitimate.

Auditors can submit proposals to the PUCO until June 3. The PUCO began soliciting auditors on Wednesday.

The subsidies were paid to three Ohio companies that hold shares in the Ohio Valley Power Authority: AEP Ohio (also known as Ohio Power Company), an Ohio-based affiliate of Duke Energy of Charlotte, North Carolina, and AES Energy of Arlington, Virginia. AEP holds the largest stake, at 40 percent.

The two companies share the costs and profits generated by the two plants, but profits are declining.

Ohio electricity customers, regardless of where they get their power, have paid $500 million since 2020 to cover losses from coal-fired power plants, a figure that's expected to reach $1 billion by 2030.

The subsidy was created by House Bill 6, but after it emerged that the bill had been passed with the help of bribes, other parts of the bill were repealed but the subsidy remained.

Consumer advocates accused the PUCO of running its coal plants at a loss without considering market demand, after auditors looked into more than $100 million in subsidies collected by the companies in 2020. The consumer advocates argued that subsidizing the plants doesn't help Ohio ratepayers because the companies aren't selling electricity to Ohio customers, but rather to the grid.

Advocates are calling on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to force the companies to refund customers. The commission has not yet made a decision.

Two Democrats have introduced legislation to repeal the subsidies. The Republican-controlled House has not advanced the bill since it was sent to the Rules Advisory Committee in June 2023.


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