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Published: 8/13/2010

FirstEnergy faces complaint of deterring wind turbines

BLADE STAFF

The Ohio Consumers' Counsel Thursday filed a complaint with state regulators alleging that FirstEnergy Corp. is making it unnecessarily difficult for consumers to produce their own electricity from residential wind turbines.

In her complaint to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander said Ohio law encourages consumers to use renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, but "according to several consumers and supporting documents, the utility has erected obstacles that fail to comply with the law."

Ms. Migden-Ostrander said her office has received complaints dating to 2007 that detail how the utility has violated state laws and PUCO rules regarding "net-metering."

Net-metering is a program whereby consumers connect their own power generation - either solar panels or wind turbines - to the electric grid. Consumers get monetary credits toward their electric bill for the power they produce and if their generated power exceeds their usage, the utility is required to pay them for any excess power.

In the complaint, consumers' counsel office investigators said five residential customers have tried to connect wind turbines to the grid since 2007, but were discouraged from doing so for various reasons and advised against net-metering.

The complaint adds that those customers later were convinced to sign agreements that fell outside laws and rules regarding net-metering.

The consumers' counsel wants the PUCO to order FirstEnergy to stop imposing requirements or charges beyond established net-metering rules, and to revise and present clearer standards for net-metering.

The complaint also seeks a fine of up to $10,000 per day for each violation of laws governing net-metering.

Ellen Raines, a FirstEnergy spokesman, said the utility was reviewing the complaint and plans to submit a formal response to the PUCO sometime later.

However, she added that FirstEnergy has had net-metering for many years, "and we have worked with customers to sign them up for it and check to be sure that they have equipment that qualifies."

Ms. Raines said customers in FirstEnergy's net-metering program have benefited. "For every kilowatt hour you produce, it can help net out your account. You can actually receive money from the utility if you generate more than you use," she said.



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