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‘Stop trying to scare Ohioans,’ PUCO chief tells power companies

Ohio power company executives have been questioning the state’s deregulated energy model, expressing concerns over whether they can keep the lights on.  But the new chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio says the industry will be fine – if only those in the energy business would stop alarming the public.

Andre Porter, chosen in April by Gov. John Kasich to lead the influential state agency, agreed with comments made by Ohio’s electric utility executives from Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. and Columbus’ American Electric Power Company Inc. that it’s important to ensure power reliability.

But Porter isn’t sounding the alarm bell that has led to criticism that utilities are crying wolf.

Ohio should “stay the course,” he said, when asked to describe the biggest issues facing Ohio power. “I think things are going to be fine here in the state of Ohio,” he said. “I know that sometimes it seems as if there are folks who want to attempt to scare Ohioans, but that’s not what we need to do. Let’s stop attempting to scare Ohioans.”

FirstEnergy Corp. CEO Chuck Jones recently suggested deregulation, which allows customers to buy power from various electricity suppliers at different rates rather than relying on the utility’s standard offer, isn’t working for the utility anymore.

Porter was blunt when asked what it’s like to preside over a commission when executives invested in deregulation believe it isn’t working. “That’s when I would tell you let’s focus on what’s most important,” he said. “Stop trying to scare Ohioans. We’re going to continue to have reliable power. We’re going to continue to have cost-effective services.”