The Sierra Club has launched a campaign to discourage Ohioans from buying electricity from the retail arm of Akron-based FirstEnergy.
The environmental group says it will use advertising, volunteer recruitment and door-to-door canvassing to share concerns that FirstEnergy is fighting energy efficiency programs and clean energy mandates. But FirstEnergy says the message is misleading consumers. Ohio Public Radio's Andy Chow reports.
There’s a long and contentious history between environmental groups and utilities when it comes to clean and efficient energy standards. Most recently that battle has been focused on FirstEnergy.
Since Ohioans have the opportunity to shop around for different electricity providers, environmental advocates with the Sierra Club are going around the state, asking customers to NOT choose FirstEnergy’s subsidiary known as FirstEnergy Solutions.
They accuse FirstEnergy of being the worst-performing utility when it comes to meeting clean energy standards. FirstEnergy has also been vocal in their opposition to the efficiency standards and they’re pushing for state officials to change those benchmarks.
Sawmiller: “We’re here because FirstEnergy has attacked clean energy and energy efficiency in Ohio. This attack is out of touch with the everyday lives of Ohio’s families. It threatens their ability to save money through efficiency programs that are reducing the amount of energy that is wasted on our system but that we as Ohioans are still paying for.”
Sierra Club’s Senior Campaign Representative Dan Sawmiller says FirstEnergy’s stance on clean and efficient energy threatens public health and stunts job creation.
Another Sierra Club member, Rashay Layman, says the group is prepared to take that message door-to-door. Even in northeast Ohio—FirstEnergy’s main region.
Layman: “Our message is that energy efficiency is our cheapest energy resource. It keeps our energy affordable and this is a corporation who wants to see it done away with.”
Doug Colafella with FirstEnergy makes no apologies for the corporation’s attempt to reform the state’s efficiency standards.
Colafella: “We believe that there’s a huge price tag to these mandated programs and a lot of folks frankly aren’t aware that they’re being charged every month for these programs and that’s an issue that we’ve been trying to raise some awareness about.”
Colafella also hits back against accusations that FirstEnergy’s clean energy and efficiency energy initiatives underperform. He counters that their programs have been approved by the state and are doing a good job saving money for its consumers.
Colafella: “It’s a shame that this campaign could mislead customers into potentially missing out on opportunities to reduce their bills even more by shopping with FirstEnergy Solutions. We’re helping millions of Ohio customers save on their energy bill through discount electricity supply. So we feel that the campaign could be misleading.”
To add to their argument, the Sierra Club points to a recent order by the state making FirstEnergy return $43 million to its customers due to overpaying for renewable energy credits. Colafella says FirstEnergy stands by its purchasing decisions and plans to file an appeal.