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State Regulators Deny AEP Rate Increase For Largest Solar Project In Ohio

solar panals
Carl Attard

State regulators have denied AEP’s plan to charge ratepayers a fee for what would be the largest solar project in Ohio. The decision came down to whether electric customers needed the power plant in order to justify the additional cost to electric bills.

AEP proposed guaranteeing the purchase of solar powerfrom two plants in Highland County, currently in development.

But the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio ruled against the proposal, saying AEP did not prove it was needed in order to add what was estimated as a new $0.28 monthly fee for the average ratepayer.

AEP argued that the plantwas needed for fuel diversity, carbon reduction, and economic development in Appalachia.

"The commission’s decision rejecting the need for two AEP Ohio solar projects in Appalachia Ohio is disappointing for customers and the state,” AEP said in a written statement. “Our plan to support 400 megawatts of Ohio-based solar generation included hundreds of jobs, more tax dollars for local governments and demonstrated the important role renewable energy plays in attracting new businesses to Ohio. AEP Ohio remains committed to finding solutions to make renewable energy more readily available to our customers.”

PUCO noted that the solar plant could seek renewable credits from the $20 million pot created through the latest energy bill, which also bailed out nuclear and rolled back renewable energy standards.

"Today’s decision is not about any particular generating technology. Rather, it is about what must be demonstrated by an electric distribution utility before Ohio law might allow the PUCO to approve the proposed charge," PUCO chairman Sam Randazzo said in a written statement. "Indeed, Ohio’s 'customer choice' framework provides AEP Ohio customers with the individual right to do directly what the proposal would have compelled all such customers to do regardless of their individual preferences."

AEP said it is now evaluating other options for developing renewable energy.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.