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Published: Wednesday, 10/28/2009

Toledo Edison parent now plans voluntary light bulb distribution; utility says new program more costly

ASSOCIATED PRESS

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An Ohio utility criticized for passing on to customers the cost of a mandatory light bulb giveaway program on Wednesday proposed a voluntary program instead.

The change will accommodate customers who do not want to receive the energy-efficient bulbs but will also increase costs of the bulb distribution program, Art Korkosz, a lawyer for Akron-based FirstEnergy, said in remarks prepared for state regulators.

FirstEnergy suspended the bulb distribution earlier this month after consumers complained about the details and the $21.60 cost.

The plan backfired when it was learned that recipients would not only have to pay for the bulbs, but also pay the utility for the electricity they wouldn't be using.

The voluntary program would take place over two years instead of the five weeks this fall the company originally planned for.

Korkosz said the longer rollout also means the company can't meet 2009 energy-efficiency standards.

He pointed out that meeting those standards isn't cost-free and warned of more problems as the company tries to reach those requirements.

"We should all face up to the reality that under the statute's future requirements, such concerns and controversy will become even more pronounced and strident," Korkosz said.

That will be especially true in situations where one customer might be effectively subsidizing another's home insulation costs, he said.

To make up the cost plus lost electricity sales, FirstEnergy The change will accommodate customers who do not want to receive the energy-efficient bulbs but will also increase costs of the bulb distribution program, Art Korkosz, a lawyer for Akron-based FirstEnergy, said in remarks prepared for state regulators.

FirstEnergy suspended the bulb distribution earlier this month after consumers complained about the details and the $21.60 cost.

The plan backfired when it was learned that recipients would not only have to pay for the bulbs, but also pay the utility for the electricity they wouldn't be using.

The voluntary program would take place over two years instead of the five weeks this fall the company originally planned for.

Korkosz said the longer rollout also means the company can't meet 2009 energy-efficiency standards.

He pointed out that meeting those standards isn't cost-free and warned of more problems as the company tries to reach those requirements.

"We should all face up to the reality that under the statute's future requirements, such concerns and controversy will become even more pronounced and strident," Korkosz said.

That will be especially true in situations where one customer might be effectively subsidizing another's home insulation costs, he said.

To make up the cost plus lost electricity sales, FirstEnergy planned to charge customers using an average amount of electricity 60 cents a month for three years.

The light bulb distribution program was in response to a state mandate that requires utilities to reduce energy usage by 0.3 percent this year and 22.2 percent by 2025, FirstEnergy said.

The bulbs, known by their twisty, tubular shape, use up to 75 percent less electricity than a traditional incandescent bulb. Customers can save up to $60 over the life of the bulbs, which last much longer than incandescent bulbs, the Akron-based company said..

The light bulb distribution program was in response to a state mandate that requires utilities to reduce energy usage by 0.3 percent this year and 22.2 percent by 2025, FirstEnergy said.



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