When a report by the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel is titled “Everybody is Unhappy,” you can probably rest assured you are not going to like what the report has uncovered. But here are the numbers – Ohio’s 12.38 average cents per kilowatt hour being paid by Ohio consumers is some 25 percent higher than states like West Virginia and Louisiana. For example, West Virginians are paying 8.33 cents per kwh and Louisiana – 9.49. In fact, 32 other states have lower rates than Ohio.
The report opens with – “We now live in the Age of Electricity. In a manner similar to the previous Ages of Mankind, Stone, Bronze, Iron and Industrial, electricity is a key aspect of all our lives. It keeps us warm in the winter (even natural gas furnaces require a blower to distribute the air), makes the latitudes below the 35th parallel north habitable in the summer, and provides the current to keep our communications current. But increasingly all across Ohio, and indeed America, many are unhappy with the electrical system. Consumers, businesses, industrial users and even the investor owned utilities (IOUs) and their shareholders are unhappy.” And that’s just the opening paragraph.
The report says while some may suggest that pressures to increase the share of electricity generated by renewable sources are responsible for Ohio’s higher costs, it says, solar and wind generation currently produce less than two percent of Ohio’s electricity. It says Iowa, Colorado and North Dakota are heavily dependent on coal, like Ohio. Those states generate 29 percent, 11.5 percent and 17 percent respectively from wind, solar and related renewable resources, and all have cheaper electricity for consumers than Ohio.
“For the past year, the Governing Board of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel has been looking at the state of the investor-owned utilities’ (IOUs) electrical system for serving Ohioans,” Consumers’ Counsel says. “Nothing has been pre-conceived, and nothing has been off the table.”
The report goes on to say – “The mood of the country is anything but upbeat right now. And that mood is reflected in how the state of Ohio’s investor-owned electrical industry is viewed by customers and by the industry itself and others. First to the customers: thirty-two states have cheaper electricity for residential consumers than Ohio.”
So how to fix it, including for consumers? “First, there has to be a recognition of a problem; the problem is how we currently regulate this industry. There can be no other explanation as to why consumers’ electric costs are so very high when compared to all the gifts Ohio has inherited.”
The finding is that unfortunately the best tool in this case is yet another task force, but this time, the mere creation of it is an affirmation of the existence of the problem.
How much time do we have? Consumers’ Counsel says experts believe the system will start to show serious stresses by 2017, 2018 by the latest, so time is of the essence.
“Either we can take action or consumers will end up about as well off as the Aborigines did after Cook sailed to Australia. The proposed task force will not directly fix anything, but it will begin the process to get everyone to the table to at least admit there is a problem, and the problem should be solved jointly,” the report said.
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