Analysis: FirstEnergy deal may cause spike in electric bills for schools, hospitals, and manufacturers

Schools, hospitals, and manufacturers in West Virginia could expect Mon Power and Potomac Edison electric bills to increase more than $230 million over the next 15 years if the FirstEnergy Corp.’s plan to transfer ownership of Pleasants Power Station near Parkersburg is approved, according to analysis briefs.

The Public Service Commission of West Virginia is currently weighing whether to approve the deal between the FirstEnergy subsidiaries. If approved by the PSC, Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers in West Virginia will pay for the operation and upkeep of Pleasants power plant.

Solar United Neighborhoods of West Virginia, one of the parties intervening in the case before the PSC, contracted consultants RunnerStone, LLC to provide estimated impacts of the FirstEnergy deal for schools (primary, secondary and colleges and universities), inpatient and outpatient hospitals, and manufacturers.

The $230 million cited in RunnerStone’s briefs is more than half of the nearly $470 million that an analyst cited to PSC on the potential cost of the FirstEnergy deal to consumers.

“The briefs provide eye-opening context to the potential price we’ll have to pay for FirstEnergy’s bad deal for West Virginians,” said Karan Ireland, campaign director for Solar United Neighborhoods of West Virginia.

Here’s the breakdown of the possible impact for the next 15 years, based on RunnerStone’s analysis:

  • Manufacturers could face an increase of $181 million. A medium-size manufacturing facility spending around $600,00 annually would pay about $234,000 in added costs; a large manufacturing facility could pay an additional $3.1 million. Click here to read the full brief on manufacturing.
  • 53% of WV schools are served by Mon Power and Potomac Edison and could pay $42.8 million more on electric bills. A district with three elementary schools would pay about $235,000. The Morgan County school district, for example, would fall into this category. Click here to read the full brief on schools and universities.
  • Hospitals — many in rural areas already struggling to keep doors open — may see around $7.5 million increase in energy budgets. A 425,500-square-foot inpatient hospital would pay about $450,000 in added costs. For comparison, Ruby Memorial Hospital at West Virginia University is a 500,000-square-foot building. Click here to read the full brief on healthcare.

“Not only are you hitting folks in the wallet at their homes, the FirstEnergy deal could affect the budgets of where they work, where their kids go to school, and the hospitals that serve their families,” said Ireland. “All of this because an Ohio-based corporation wants to move ownership of a plant to benefit its shareholders and its bottom line.”

West Virginians For Energy Freedom is a coalition of economic and ratepayer advocacy groups, faith-based organizations, businesses, and elected officials who oppose FirstEnergy’s bailout attempt. Since January, the coalition has been raising awareness about FirstEnergy’s bad deal for Mon Power and Potomac Edison customers.