Government policies are jeopardizing the reliability and affordability of a service that is vital to the nation's economy, productivity and competitiveness, according to FirstEnergy President and CEO Anthony J. Alexander.
Alexander spoke at yesterday's U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Institute for 21st Century Energy event in Washington, D.C. He said there are no easy choices, but he believes the nation can strike the right balance to ensure affordable, reliable and environmentally sound electric service, while also supporting economic expansion and keeping our country strong and secure.
"All of us have been challenged by the economy over the last few years. And even though we’re seeing some signs of economic recovery, the electric utility industry continues to experience weak demand for electricity and soft market prices for power," Alexander said.
He stated that in FirstEnergy’s six-state service area, 2013 utility sales were below 2007 levels – and, during that period, wholesale energy prices dropped by more than 40 percent, which he said was the longest period of economic stagnation that he had seen in his 40 years in the industry. Alexander said he believed that the challenges from government interference were a bigger problem, however.
"The challenges we now face from government interference in the electric business are far more intrusive and disruptive, and I believe far more significant to our industry’s future, and to your future. That’s because whether it impacts our traditional regulated business or our competitive operations, government policy is now aimed at stifling the growth and use of electricity – and picking winners and losers in the competitive marketplace," he said.
Alexander used Germany's policy as an example of what not to do, because electricity prices have more than doubled since its mandates that provide wind and solar energy producers with a guaranteed price.
"Let me be clear – FirstEnergy supports and encourages energy efficiency and the wise use of electricity by our customers… we always have. And, in some cases, it makes sense to charge all customers to fund energy efficiency programs for customers who cannot make those investments on their own," he said. "But when efficiency targets are mandated by government – and based on arbitrary, overly aggressive goals – all customers pay the price… and it is a substantial tax on those who do not, or cannot, participate in the program."