Watchdog group urges boycott of FirstEnergy

Sierra Club hits stance on renewable energy


COLUMBUS — An environmental group on Wednesday launched a campaign urging Ohioans to boycott FirstEnergy Corp.’s marketing arm to protest what it says are efforts by Toledo Edison to undercut Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards.

“It is time for us to stop FirstEnergy,” said Dan Sawmiller, senior representative of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Ohio. “We will not stand by any longer without taking direct action.”

The first electronic billboard has gone up across from the Statehouse in Columbus where lawmakers may soon revisit Ohio’s 2008 law requiring utilities to find at least 25 percent of their power from renewable or advanced technology sources by 2025.

FirstEnergy Solutions, the retail electricity supplier affiliate of the Akron-based utility, markets itself as an alternative to traditional utilities — including FirstEnergy itself — in multiple states in the Midwest and the East. Central Ohio is a major marketing target because FirstEnergy Solutions has been going after customers of American Electric Power there.

The boycott campaign plans paid advertising, online ads, mailers, and direct contact to urge consumers to sign a pledge that they will not sign a contract to buy their power from FirstEnergy Solutions.

Under state law, half of the 25 percent alternative energy standard, or 12.5 percent, must come from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and landfill gases. Half a percentage point must come from solar.

The advanced sources can also include such things as nuclear, fuel cells, and cleaner coal technology. Most of Ohio’s electricity comes from coal-fired power plants.

The requirement for renewable and advanced energy could be suspended once the cost to consumers increases by more than 3 percent, but no utility has yet invoked that cap.

“We’re not aware of any impact [the Sierra Club campaign] may be having, but we certainly feel their campaign is misleading,” said FirstEnergy spokesman Doug Colafella.

“Like other utilities in Ohio, we have programs that help customers reduce their energy use,” he said. “It’s a shame that this campaign could mislead customers into missing out on reducing their electric bills by switching to FirstEnergy Solutions.”

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio recently ordered FirstEnergy Corp. to refund $43.3 million to its 2 million customers for overcharging them for renewable energy credits it acquired through its subsidiary to comply with the law. On Wednesday, at the request of multiple parties on both sides, including FirstEnergy, the PUCO agreed to reopen the case.

Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz (R., Cincinnati) is expected to introduce a bill sometime this fall to revisit the standards, with the emphasis expected to be primarily on efficiency as opposed to renewable energy.

Contact Jim Provance at: or 614-221-0496.