COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio utility regulators on Wednesday ordered FirstEnergy to credit $43.3 million back to customers after the company overcharged them for renewables purchases in Ohio's developing alternative energy market.
The unanimous action by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for the first time puts a dollar figure on excess costs the Akron-based utility paid a subsidiary for renewable energy and then passed on to customers.
The company said it disagrees with the commission's decision and plans to appeal.
"The ruling does not change the fact that purchasing the renewable energy credits was the only option available to us under Ohio's clean energy law," FirstEnergy spokesman Doug Colafella said in an email. "The decision suggests we should have ignored Ohio law and it penalizes us for following the law."
An audit of the overcharges by Exeter Associates Inc. indicated FirstEnergy paid 15 times more than any other company in the country to subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions to buy the credits it would use to help meet Ohio's new renewable energy standard.
The standard requires utilities to provide 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.
Portions of the audit were blocked from public view because of confidentiality claims by the company, and PUCO Chairman Todd Snitchler said Wednesday those figures will remain secret.
An analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council had put the excess payments at between $96 million and $126 million.
"I can't speak to how they arrived at that number, but we think this number is very much within the realm of what was appropriate," Snitchler said.
Dan Sawmiller, with the Sierra Club's Ohio Beyond Coal Campaign, commended the commission's order but said public access is lacking in the case, "leaving customers in the dark about what types of renewables are being provided, where they are coming from and at what cost."