Solar rights opponent nominated as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio as another vacancy opens

By Nick Seymour on February 15, 2019

Ohio’s community of solar supporters suffered a setback earlier this month with the appointment of anti-renewable lobbyist Sam Randazzo to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). The PUCO is responsible for representing the public interest by regulating Ohio’s utilities and other industries. It is our first line of defense to ensure monopoly utilities treat us fairly.  Mr. Randazzo was appointed to replace outgoing Commissioner Thomas Johnson. Mr. Randazzo is also expected to take over as chairman of the commission with the departure of Chairman Asim Haque who is leaving to join the staff of PJM.  Chairman Haque’s seat is currently open for nominations. The governor will select the next commissioner from the list he receives from the nominating council. The Ohio Senate ultimately confirms appointments, but is not expected to object to Mr. Randazzo.

The PUCO plays an important role in our ability to go solar. It is responsible for setting the rates utilities charge for electricity. Over the past several years, we’ve seen Ohio utilities try to throttle our ability to go solar by asking for increases to fixed charges. Increasing fixed charges is a way utilities can block competition from solar because higher fixed charges reduce the amount of money homeowners save by going solar. The PUCO is also empowered to set the way solar customers are credited for the electricity they produce. As we reported last month, the PUCO decided to lower this credit for solar producers.

Given these powers, Mr. Randazzo’s long track-record of solar opposition is of real concern.

Mr. Randazzo was previously chief counsel for the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio (IEU-Ohio), a that group has had a significant hand in drafting anti-renewable energy policy in Columbus for years. They have Randazzo to thank for their biggest wins against renewable energy. In 2014, for example, he led the charge on a two-year freeze on the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. The freeze bill also created the Energy Mandates Study Committee, which Mr. Randazzo then influenced to issue a report that recommended an indefinite extension of the clean energy standards freeze.

Ohio’s community of solar supporters spoke up against Mr. Randazzo’s appointment. We sent hundreds of messages to Governor DeWine, letting him know our concerns about Mr. Randazzo. The remaining open PUCO seat should be filled by someone who will look out for the interest of all utility customers, solar and non-solar alike.