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Energy

Adviser chosen to help analyze electricity bids

State regulators expect to have details soon about how an auction will work this year to choose electricity suppliers in the Toledo area and elsewhere in northern Ohio.

Charles River Associates Inc. of Boston has been chosen to assist the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio with analyzing bids received from the Internet auction.

The plan is to determine whether other suppliers might be able to offer FirstEnergy Corp. residential customers cheaper electricity in 2006 and after than the utility itself is offering.

FirstEnergy is expected to file a plan this week detailing how the auction would work, which is planned to occur Nov. 22, a commission spokesman said.

If a firm underbids FirstEnergy, which owns Toledo Edison, the bidder will be awarded a contract to supply residential customers beginning Jan. 1, 2006. If no bid is lower than the rate proposed by FirstEnergy, the Akron utility will continue to supply power under a rate plan approved by the commission.

The agency could hold another auction in late 2005 if it doesn't receive bids this year. The idea is to try to lock in electricity prices in the next few years, now that the power industry is deregulated in Ohio.

Conducting the auction will be NERA Economic Consulting, of Cambridge, Mass.

Afterward, Charles River Associates will assist the utility commission's staff in evaluating bids. The firm has assisted public utility boards in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Arizona.

It was one of 17 expressing interest in the job in Ohio, but it had the most experience, a commission spokesman said. Its fee, to be paid by FirstEnergy, is $172,000.

The commission staff is expected to recommend a course of action by mid-December. The panel either will accept a bid by Jan. 1 or will allow FirstEnergy to remain the electric provider for residential customers.

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