By: Mark Williams |

Millions of Ohio electricity customers could end up paying more for power because of the bankruptcy filing of key power company.

A bankruptcy judge has allowed FirstEnergy Solutions, which filed for bankruptcy protection March 31, to opt out of its share of costs as an owner of the Ohio Valley Electric Corp. FirstEnergy Solutions is the power-plant arm of Akron-based FirstEnergy.

Ohio Valley is a power company with two coal-fired power plants along the Ohio River, one called Kyger Creek in southeast Ohio and the second known as Clifty Creek in Indiana.

FirstEnergy Solutions and other power companies in the state — including American Electric Power, Duke Energy and DP&L along with customers of the state’s electric cooperatives — share ownership and debt costs for the plants.

Removing FirstEnergy Solutions from that group means the other companies will have to find another company to replace FirstEnergy Solutions or absorb those costs, says the state’s consumer watchdog in a filing as part of the bankruptcy case.

The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel is worried about what the bankruptcy filing means for power customers throughout the state.

The consumers’ counsel urged the bankruptcy court to consider not just FirstEnergy Solutions’ financial interests, but “also the higher rates a couple million Ohio consumers could pay for electricity” by allowing FirstEnergy Solutions to leave the arrangement.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio likely would allow those charges to be passed along to consumers, the consumers’ counsel said.

As of Dec. 31, Ohio Valley’s debt totaled $1.4 billion, according to the consumers’ counsel. FirstEnergy is responsible for nearly 5 percent of the debt, or $67.9 million.

Also, there would be costs associated with decommissioning the plants when they stop operating.

How much all this will cost consumers is hard to say.

The consumers’ counsel doesn’t have a number yet, and AEP said it doesn’t know how customers will be affected, given that the bankruptcy case is still pending.