For energy customers in Ohio, the importance of deregulation is again being challenged. Claiming they are unable to compete in the deregulated market, some Ohio utilities including AEP and FirstEnergy are asking for assistance from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Their concern is directed at the coal power plants and they are requesting the PUCO to allow them into a power purchase agreement (PPA) to guarantee pricing to keep them running.
If approved, consumers will not benefit from a truly competitive market. Consumers hooked up to the grid will have to share in this cost of the PPA. The utilities say investments in the coal plant will lead to more-stable prices and help retain the jobs at the plants, however others remain skeptical. By requesting this PPA the utilities are thus asking for re-regulation of certain generation plants.
The decision the PUCO comes to will be important. Deregulation in Ohio was approved in 2001, and if the utilities win this battle it would in essence be reversing what achievements have been made. However, if they are denied, there is the chance the utilities will retire the plants, putting further strain on the power grid.
In situations like this, the importance of groups like the Compete Coalition which lobby for the continued deregulation of the markets becomes apparent. Deregulation has allowed alternative energy suppliers to enter the markets and offer consumers not only more competitive rates, but also different products compared to those offered by the utility and other competitors. Various pricing plans and the opportunity to explore other energy alternatives are benefits that otherwise might not be available.