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Lawmakers Discuss New Electric Rate Cap




The Ohio legislature is considering a “re-regulation” of the electric utility industry to head off a sharp increase in electric bills many are predicting for 2009.

The issue dates back to the late 1980s, when Ohio, like many other states, started down the path of electricity deregulation. The goal was that a competitive market for electricity would develop in the state, and Ohio electric consumers could choose from several suppliers.

Such competitive markets never developed. Other states that have fully deregulated electric industries have seen electric bills increase dramatically.

Ohio’s electric industry is scheduled to become fully deregulated in 2009.

“A Major Issue”

Bruce Goodwin, state representative (R-Defiance) for Ohio’s 74th House District, which includes Archbold, said the Republican Caucus of the Ohio House of Representatives meets three times a week. At every single meeting, the issue of electric industry deregulation comes up. Speaking to the Archbold Area Chamber of Commerce at the Monday, Oct. 15 noon luncheon, Goodwin said electricity deregulation “is going to have a major impact on the local communities. Commissioners need to make decisions, business owners need to make decisions, townships need to make decisions.

“Everybody involved in paying bills to a utility company is going to be impacted.

“It’s a major issue. We have not decided which way we’re going, as the leadership is still formulating ideas, but it looks to me, as kind of an outsider looking in, we’re going to call it re-regulation.

“It looks like there will be a move to continue the cap on certain utility areas,” he said.

Goodwin has been a representative for 10 months, and in some ways is still learning the job, leading to his “‘outsider looking in’ comment.”

The idea of regulating an industry goes against Goodwin’s core beliefs, he told chamber members.

“I’m normally a market kind of guy. Don’t put caps on an industry. But this is a strange phenomenon.

“This has occurred through- out the nation, and it has always cost you people more money,” he said.

Don’t Allow It

Dennis Howell, Archbold village administrator who initially brought up the electric deregulation issue, pointed out only one company owns almost all of the electric generating capacity across the northern half of Ohio to the eastern seaboard.

Deregulation only works if there is competition, Howell said.

Goodwin agreed, saying only one of Ohio’s electric utilities is completely in favor of allowing deregulation to become fully enacted.

That company is First Energy, Goodwin said. Toledo Edison, Archbold’s electricity suppler, is a subsidiary of First Energy.

First Energy is “spending big dollars” to make sure Ohio follows through with deregulation, Goodwin said.

“But right now, the sentiment in Columbus is that somehow, we’re not going to allow this to happen.”

“I’m going to do my part,” he said.


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