Questions to Help Bring NOPEC Customers Out of the Dark

  • What would NOPEC say to customers who have experienced huge, unaffordable bill increases while other Ohioans participating in aggregation programs have seen bill savings, especially in this moment when so many vulnerable community members are struggling to make ends meet?

 

  • Why was so much of NOPEC’s purchasing tied to the volatile natural gas market? Does NOPEC plan to purchase more renewable energy to better hedge against price fluctuation?

 

  • Why did other aggregators in Ohio get this right and NOPEC got it so wrong?

 

  • Do we anticipate leadership changes or organizational reforms in response to this blunder that is impacting so many Ohioans?

 

  • When did you know the price per kwh was 12¢ and what steps did you take to inform and protect consumers? When did you take these steps?

 

  • When and how did NOPEC inform their 240 member communities of their decision to switch customers off NOPEC and onto the standard service offering?

 

  • NOPEC leadership forecasts spring 2023 energy prices to be more affordable for customers. If they can forecast into next spring, why couldn’t they forecast this summer’s steep prices and avoid them or at least warn consumers?

 

  • How does the suspension of NOPEC’s aggregation program affect the terms of its contracts with communities?

 

  • If the PUCO revokes NOPEC’s certificate to aggregate, what happens to its contracts with member communities? Should member communities shop around to other aggregators?

State regulators: NOPEC must defend its right to remain an electric aggregator in Ohio

COLUMBUS — "NOPEC must defend its right to be an electric energy aggregator in Ohio after announcing plans to lower electric bills for 550,000 customers by purging them from its rate plans, state regulators ruled Wednesday.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio directed NOPEC to show cause and explain why its certificate to do business should not be revoked by Sept. 28. The commission also waived rules so NOPEC could transition customers to other providers without a 90-day notice.

PUCO Chair Jenifer French said the PUCO wants NOPEC customers to benefit from lower electricity prices, which is why it ruled in favor of NOPEC in granting the waiver on Wednesday. But the commission is still concerned about NOPEC’s plan to move so many customers at once."

-- Seam McDonnell, cleveland.com

link to full article


NOPEC temporarily moving 550,000 customers to utility defaults

CLEVELAND -- "NOPEC, the default electricity supplier for much of Northeast Ohio, is temporarily moving nearly all of its more than 500,000 customers to their utility’s default choice so customers can save money on their monthly bills.

The Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, a nonprofit energy aggregator that normally offers among the lowest rates, is making this move because its standard program price is now much higher than the default pricing available through the Illuminating Co., Ohio Edison and others.

...NOPEC spokesman Dave Jankowski said this decision is unprecedented. Until now customers have had to call to opt out of NOPEC’s default price. But Jankowski said NOPEC decided switching was in customers’ best interest, and this would be easier than having each customer make a call."

--Sean McCDonnell, cleveland.com

full article


NOPEC jettisons most of its customers in tough market

CLEVELAND -- "The strange and volatile energy markets the world has seen in recent months have caught up with NOPEC, the region's largest energy aggregator that supplies power to more than half a million people in more than 240 Ohio communities.

The rates NOPEC charges customers, which in the past have often been lower than what utilities would charge, are now deep underwater compared with the current standard service offering customers would get by default. NOPEC's rates are now about twice what customers would pay to their utility by default — a rate that is shown on their bills as the "price to compare" and is obvious to consumers.

As a result, NOPEC is cutting nearly all its electric customers loose — about 550,000 out of a total of just over 560,000."

-- Dan Shingler, Crain's Cleveland

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Rachael Belz Proponent Testimony on House Bill 351

 

 

House Public Utilities Committee

Chairman Hoops, Vice Chair Ray, and Ranking Member Smith

Proponent Testimony on House Bill 351

Testimony of Rachael Belz

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance

 

September 29, 2021

Chairman Hoops, Vice Chair Ray, Ranking Member Smith, and Members of the Public Utilities Committee, my name is Rachael Belz, and I am the Director of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, a project of the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund dedicated to educating Ohio’s energy consumers around opportunities to diversify Ohio’s energy portfolio and policy actions that could impact consumer choice and spending.  Our members fully support House Bill 351.

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance was opposed to House Bill 6 when it was being debated in 2019 and strongly supported the efforts to fully repeal the legislation once it was revealed that the bill was at the center of a $61 million bribery scandal. What began as bad public policy soon became bad public policy born of corruption and collusion.

While the Ohio General Assembly has passed legislation to remove the nuclear subsidies and decoupling provisions from House Bill 6, there has still been no full repeal. That means the coal subsidies created for the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) included in House Bill 6 – which have been estimated to be worth $700 million — remain in place, to be funded by Ohio consumers. These dollars are intended to bailout two dirty coal-fired power plants, one of which is even located in Indiana.

In fact, House Bill 6 expanded the bailout of the OVEC coal plants to require FirstEnergy customers to pay for the bailout starting in January 2020. Every dollar collected under these subsidies from FirstEnergy customers is handed over to AEP, Duke, and Dayton Power & Light to further subsidize the bailouts for those companies.

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Lima and other Ohio cities prioritize sustainable energy

Photo by Alvin Trusty via Flickr.com;

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Lima,Ohio recently joined the Power a Clean Future Ohio (PCFO) initiative; therefore committing to lower its' carbon emissions by 30% by the year 2030. Lima is "setting an example for other cities of what it means to prioritize sustainability in 2021 and beyond...According to Clean Fuels Ohio, the state currently stands as the nation’s sixth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, presenting an opportunity for carbon pollution reduction initiatives in the state to make a significant impact." Power a Clean Future is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that is "dedicated to helping cities and towns move away from pollution-generating energy sources."

"Chief of Staff Sharetta Smith said this commitment represents a continuation of their efforts. For example, the city in northwest Ohio benefited from federal energy grants in 2008 and 2009 to make the transition to LED lighting inside the city’s buildings and some government-owned streetlights. The city had considered using grants more recently to replace its more than 75 vehicles over time, but that grant money was no longer available.

We’re interested in picking that work back up, starting with the analysis of moving to alternative fuel use for our vehicles, but then working through the process to get some technical training to create a sustainability plan for the city,” she said. “And so, we’re working with Power a Clean Future Ohio to again collect data.”

To read more about Lima's recent commitment to PCFO, please check out this article by Lauren Caggiano here


Rachael Belz Proponent Testimony on Senate Bill 117

Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee

Chairman Peterson, Vice Chair Schuring, and Ranking Member Williams

Proponent Testimony on Senate Bill 117

Testimony of Rachael Belz

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance

May 12, 2021

Chairman Peterson, Vice Chair Schuring, Ranking Member Williams, and Members of the Energy and Public Utilities Committee, my name is Rachael Belz, and I am the Director of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, a project of the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund dedicated to educating Ohio’s energy consumers around opportunities to diversify Ohio’s energy portfolio and policy actions that could impact consumer choice and spending. Our members fully support Senate Bill 117.

Ohio Consumers Power Alliance was opposed to House Bill 6 when it was being debated in 2019 and strongly supported the efforts to fully repeal the legislation once it was revealed that the bill was at the center of a $61 million bribery scandal. What began as bad public policy soon became bad public policy born of corruption and collusion.

While the Ohio General Assembly has passed legislation to remove the nuclear subsidies and decoupling provisions from House Bill 6, there has still been no full repeal. That means the coal subsidies created for the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) included in House Bill 6 – which have been estimated to be worth $700 million — remain in place, to be funded by Ohio consumers. These dollars are intended to bailout two dirty coal-fired power plants, one of which his even located in Indiana.

In fact, House Bill 6 expanded the bailout of the OVEC coal plants to require FirstEnergy customers to pay for the bailout starting in January 2020. Every dollar collected under these subsidies from FirstEnergy customers is handed over to AEP, Duke, and Dayton Power & Light to further subsidize the bailouts for those companies. FirstEnergy customers bear the brunt of bad utility policy on multiple fronts, but you can change that with your support of Senate Bill 117.

FirstEnergy and other utility giants should not receive any benefit from legislation passed under the shadow of corruption and lies. Dollars collected through an OVEC bailout should never leave the pockets of hardworking Ohioans and should never be used to line the pockets of wealthy executives.

Corruption made HB 6 possible, and we have continuously called on members of the General Assembly to right this wrong and repeal all components of the bill. Repealing the OVEC subsidies included in HB 6 is an important step in restoring faith in our government by standing up for real, everyday Ohio consumers.

I strongly urge you to remove the OVEC subsidies remaining from HB 6 and support the people of Ohio by supporting Senate Bill 117.


Former Ohio utility regulator Sam Randazzo selling off properties after FBI search

COLUMBUS -- "After FBI agents searched his German Village condo in November, attorney Samuel Randazzo began off loading real estate holdings worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In February, he transferred ownership of a house in the Columbus suburb of Grandview that he bought in 2013 for $346,000 to Samuel Brewster Randazzo for no money. In March, he sold a house in nearby Marble Cliff for $615,950, less than five months after buying it for $600,000.

Randazzo is in contract to sell his 2,836-square-foot waterfront home in Naples for an estimated $3.9 million, according to Redfin

Randazzo resigned as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in November, following the FBI raid and a disclosure by FirstEnergy Corp. that it paid $4.3 million in January 2019 to an unnamed individual who subsequently was appointed as a state utility regulator.

Randazzo and his consulting firm, Sustainability Alliance of Ohio, continue to own Ohio properties valued at $2.16 million, auditor records show."

-- Laura Bischoff, Columbus Dispatch

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Ohio Consumers Power Alliance Reacts to PUCO Chair Selection

Randazzo influence remains within the agency and must be removed

More than four months after the FBI raid on Sam Randazzo’s home and his subsequent resignation from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Governor Mike DeWine has selected former Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French as his replacement and new Commission Chair. The Ohio Consumers Power Alliance has spent those months calling on Governor DeWine to appoint someone who could offer Ohio a fresh start, not a rubber stamp for utilities. Someone who had no financial ties to the same utilities they would be charged with regulating. Someone who was ready to put Ohio consumers first.

We are disappointed that Governor DeWine rejected those with consumer advocacy experience earlier in this process, and we call Ms. French to demonstrate a dedication to increasing equity, fairness, and access to services at the community level at a time when corruption has been winning the day in Ohio. 

Unfortunately, French is coming to the PUCO with no consumer advocacy experience or energy policy background. This will make the PUCO even more reliant on Scott Elisar, the Commission’s legislative and policy director. Elisar, Randazzo’s former law firm colleague, was appointed by indicted former Speaker Larry Householder to fill a vacancy left by Sam Randazzo on the PUCO nominating council in early 2019. He was subsequently hired by Randazzo to his current leadership position within the PUCO. Sam Randazzo may be gone, but Governor DeWine has stopped short of cleaning house at the PUCO.

Once confirmed, Jenifer French’s first order of business as PUCO Chair should be to remove the final vestige of the Householder and Randazzo era at the agency. We call on her to replace Scott Elisar as legislative and policy director and begin to restore confidence in the state’s regulatory process.

Ohioans deserve better than what we got with Sam Randazzo. We deserve an energy policy that is not clouded by corruption and lies. We offer our congratulations to Ms. French and urge her to bring dignity, transparency, and the consumer perspective back to the PUCO. We urge her to provide a fresh start.

- Rachael Belz, Director, Ohio Consumers Power Alliance


Ohio utility regulators expand FirstEnergy audit to see whether customers should get refunds

COLUMBUS –– "The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on Wednesday voted to probe whether FirstEnergy Corp. customers should be given refunds for questionable costs incurred by the utility, including $4 million paid to a company tied to ex-PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo.

... FirstEnergy officials haven’t publicly disclosed specific details about the costs, other than to say they were 'improperly classified,' 'misallocated' to the company’s local affiliates or 'lacked proper supporting documentation.' They said most of the costs occurred in Ohio, some dated back 10 years or more, and that the overall amount is relatively small and 'immaterial' to the company’s finances."

–– Jeremy Peltzer, cleveland.com

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