The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Feb. 26, 2024

AEP addresses county opposition to plan

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

The Van Wert County Board of Commissioners heard a request from AEP to withdraw its opposition to the utility company’s Electrical Security Plan settlement agreement during the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday.

Randy Payne, AEP Ohio’s community affairs manager, attended Tuesday’s meeting to provide additional information to the commissioners about the ESP settlement, which is required of all power providers every three years, and to ask them to not actively oppose the agreement AEP is seeking through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

“The main reason I’m here today is we became aware that the commissioners wrote a letter opposing AEP’s ESP settlement agreement we have in front of the Public Utilities Commission,” Payne said during his meeting with the commissioners.

During his presentation, Payne stressed that AEP had no problems with the recent aggregation ballot issues approved by voters in a number of political subdivisions in the county.

Randy Payne (left), community affairs manager for AEP Ohio, speaks to the Van Wert County Board of Commissioners while Commissioners Clerk Larry Clouse listens. (Dave Mosier/Van Wert independent)

“AEP is not in opposition to aggregation, it is not opposed to competition,” he said, noting that aggregation only affects electric power generation costs, which make up approximately 50 percent of a typical customer’s electric bill. “That’s the only piece of your electric bill that’s going to be competitive, the part that is deregulated.”

He also explained that AEP Ohio would still provide transmission of power to its current customers in the county, and that customers would still pay their bills to AEP Ohio.

Payne said a number of organizations are supporting AEP’s request, including the Ohio Hospital Association and state retail energy association, which includes most of the utility’s competitors. In fact, he added, the only entity actively opposing the program request is First Energy Corporation, one of AEP’s major competitors. Lima Mayor David Berger has also written a letter supporting the agreement, Payne told the commissioners.

“We feel we have a good plan in front of the commission,” he noted.

The commissioners acknowledged that their letter of opposition to the program was sent at the request of First Energy, the utility the county will be running its electric aggregation program through.

Payne provided some details of AEP Ohio’s ESP settlement agreement, noting that several of AEP’s older coal-fired plants were to be retired during the next 15-20 years and adding that the utility is planning to shut down those plants in the near future and build new natural gas-fired plants to replace them.

“AEP has determined that it’s less costly for us to shut down those plants now,” he explained, noting that not shutting them down the plants could result in an investment of $400 million per power plant – something AEP

Payne said First Energy’s accusation that AEP is trying to “cap the market” is not accurate and that other electric utilities would not be disadvantaged by AEP Ohio’s ESP settlement agreement. In fact, all of AEP’s competitors except First Energy are in support of the utility’s plan, he added, stating that natural gas utility Dominion is also in support of the agreement.

During his presentation, Payne stressed the amount of support AEP has given to county organizations, and also stating that the commissioners’ letter of opposition to its ESP settlement agreement would also affect a $3 million fund provided by AEP’s stockholders to provide power to low-income customers in the state.

“Your letter is opposing that,” Payne told the commissioners.

He also talked about the funding AEP is committing to the megasite project north of Van Wert through a partnership with Van Wert County Economic Development Director Nancy Bowen and its support of local projects, including donations to Van Wert County Hospital’s Emergency Room project ($25,000), Smiley Park Children’s Garden ($12,000) and a recent $5,000 donation to the new tennis court project behind the Van Wert High School-Middle School complex.

Payne also noted that AEP Ohio spent $3.35 million in the county through taxes, wages, contributions and other payments. AEP facilities in the county include its service center on North Cherry Street and the Mone Power Plant on Mentzer Road near Convoy.

In conclusion, Payne said he hoped the commissioners would look at the additional information he provided on Tuesday and end their opposition to AEP’s settlement agreement.

He also noted that he would be speaking to Van Wert City Council on December 12, but on another subject, since the city does not oppose the settlement agreement.

POSTED: 11/30/11 at 8:09 am. FILED UNDER: News