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HB6 Supporters, Opponents Debate Decoupling Provision

Laura Lanese
The Ohio Channel
Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) testifies before the Ohio House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight.

Lawmakers are discussing the potential repeal of a sweeping energy law that bails out nuclear power plants. HB6 is at the center of a federal racketeering investigation. The legislation does several other things that are up to debate, including a utility policy term known as "decoupling."

Traditional decoupling cuts the link between the amount of electricity consumed and the profits a utility makes from that.

Opponents of HB6 say the decoupling provision in the bill guarantees large profits for FirstEnergy, and is another reason why the bill should be repealed. 

John Seryak, with Runnerstone an energy consulting group, says decoupling in HB6 ensures FirstEnergy collects record high profits.

Seryak says this provision does not include benefits for anyone else, "To ratepayers, or the environment it really doesn't achieve any positive policy outcome for the state of Ohio." 

But FirstEnergy argues the decoupling provision ensures their profits are capped at 2018 revenues, while still allowing a way to provide reliable service to customers. 

Mark Durbin, FirstEnergy spokesperson, says decoupling is a way to encourage utilities to continue providing energy efficiency programs without losing revenue needed to ensure reliability.

"Trying to balance that issue of wanting customers to use -- be energy efficient -- but also making sure that the various utilities had enough revenue to maintain their system," Durbin says.

Durbin also points out that the mechanism is still up for scrutiny and approval by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

However, opponents of HB6 argue the decoupling language is further proof that the bill should be repealed. Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) says, with the decoupling provision, FirstEnergy could get as much as $750 million in guaranteed distribution profits.

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