First Energy Cuts Consumer Efficiency Programs as State Standards Freeze Takes Effect

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First Energy lobbied for the law that froze requirements for utilities to improve efficiency and develop renewables. Now the company is scrapping programs that helped it comply with those mandates.

Company spokeswoman Diane Francis said the move is meant to save consumers money.

"Few customers were actually participating in the programs, but all customers were required to pay for them," she said.

The programs give subsidies and rebates for compact fluorescent light bulbs and efficient home construction.

Environmentalists say the company really wants to nix efficiency efforts so it can sell more power and boost its bottom line.

Rob Kelter, with the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, helped negotiate First Energy’s incentives. He said the company’s own filings with the state show the incentives were good for consumers as well as the environment.

"Cleveland Electric was spending $78 million on its programs, but those programs generated $137 million in savings – almost two for one," he said.

Francis contended the state’s formula for calculating cost savings is flawed.

She said the company will still offer programmable thermostats to industry and the poor.

The other major utilities in Ohio have said they’ll keep their efficiency incentives for now.

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