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Power boss says electric bills will rise 

Electric bills are going up whether lawmakers approve the governor’s energy proposal or not, but they’ll go up even more if legislators stick to a plan to increase requirements for renewable and advanced sources of energy, the chief of the FirstEnergy utility company said Thursday.

Rates have remained stable since a major reorganization of the industry in 2001, but business costs have soared, said Anthony Alexander, FirstEnergy’s president and CEO, during a meeting with reporters before testifying at a Senate committee hearing on Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan.

The cost of labor, coal, transmission wires, plant maintenance and other industry staples has gone up, while utilities’ revenue has remained stable under regulation, since the state tried to enter a competitive market in 2006, Alexander said.

Competition hasn’t developed, so regulators have essentially extended the fixed-price market.

Strickland’s plan would require utilities to tap renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and other sources, such as clean coal and nuclear, for 25 percent of their total power load by 2025. Half of that 25 percent must be renewable sources, under the plan. Ohio’s spotty wind and sunshine could require utilities to search for other renewable sources and that would drive prices up further, Alexander said.

“Under any scenario you go with, rates are going to increase,” Alexander said.

Strickland argues that turning to alternative fuels is essential to ensuring that Ohioans have a steady power supply and attracting new jobs to the state.


4 October 2007

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