FirstEnergy CEO Says His Company's Plan is Better For Consumers Than Closing Plants

Dec 16, 2015

FirstEnergy CEO Charles Jones says closing older plants -- like Davis-Besse nuclear (pictured) and the Sammis coal plant -- is a policy the U.S. will regret in the long-term.
Credit TIM RUDELL / WKSU

Akron-based FirstEnergy's proposed rate plan is still being reviewed by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, a proposal that's drawn criticism from environmentalists and even clergy and some business groups.  WKSU's Kabir Bhatia reports.

The eight-year agreement asks that FirstEnergy’s subsidiaries buy all the power from its Sammis coal plant near Steubenville and the Davis-Besse nuclear plant, since the company says those plants cannot otherwise remain competitive and would have to be closed.

FirstEnergy CEO Charles Jones told the Akron Roundtable that it’s a trend that the U.S. will regret in the long-term, citing a similar example in Germany.

“They got rid of their coal plants over a decade ago.  They shut their nuclear plants down. They tried to rely real heavily on renewables.  Well, they found out that renewables generate at times when you don’t need the power.  Wind blows more at night than it does during the day.”

Jones says he does not see a future where customers will not pay more for energy. Jones said the rate plan his company has proposed would freeze increases at around $3.50 a month for customers for eight years while subsidizing the company’s Sammis coal plant and the Davis-Besse nuclear plant.

Jones says closing the plants would result in a rate hike of more than $4, which could increase over time, and as an example he cited the recent closures of two coal plants by his company.

“Certain people say, ‘Hey, that’s great; we got coal out of the environment.’  But here’s what happens: these plants were built to serve customers.  We spent $1.2 billion on new transmission lines and new transmission substations, in order to make sure the grid would work correctly without those plants.  It would have taken $400 million to keep those plants running.”

The PUCO has another round of hearings scheduled to start Jan. 14, a year after they began considering the plan.