A New Path in Ohio
Achieving a balance between our customers’ need for affordable, reliable and clean power and our investors’ need for competitive and fair returns has grown difficult in Ohio. By law, Ohio customers can switch generation providers, allowing them to capture the benefit of lower market prices. However, our generation must stand ready to serve all customers in our service territory, including those who have switched. Therefore, we have not been able to adequately recover our costs and earn a competitive and fair return on our investments.
This imbalance was highlighted in 2009, when market prices for energy plummeted, along with the economy and industrial demand. As a result, our electric generation rates have exceeded the prevailing market prices. By the end of 2010, approximately 65 percent of customers receiving Duke Energy Ohio’s negotiated electric rates had switched to other retail suppliers who offered generation at lower prices.
In the current Ohio regulatory framework, provisions in place do not allow utilities to adequately recover their investments, whether in existing assets, new power plants to meet future customer demand, or in improvements to comply with more stringent environmental rules. This high-risk and low-reward environment makes it difficult to maintain a healthy utility and justify future power plant investments in the state. Energy providers need assurance that they can earn fair returns on existing and future investments to maintain the current system and ensure the reliable delivery of power. A different regulatory approach could help create much-needed jobs and begin to reposition the state for future economic growth.
In the meantime, at the end of 2010, we filed a new electric standard service offer, or Market Rate Offer, with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, requesting a plan to set market-based rates for customers of Duke Energy Ohio. This filing was a significant departure for Duke Energy Ohio, however, we believed it was the best option available to us under the current rules. In late February, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio failed to approve our filing. In light of this ruling, we are currently exploring our options.