After bulb battle, utility offers voluntary plan

AKRON, OHIO - An Ohio power company has proposed a new energy efficiency plan that includes a smaller role for the energy-saving light bulbs that sparked a backlash.

In a revised plan that FirstEnergy Corp. filed with state regulators, consumers will get free compact fluorescent bulbs from the company only if they request them.

Akron-based FirstEnergy originally planned to automatically mail two bulbs to every customer and add a surcharge onto electric bills that exceeded the cost of the bulbs.

State offices were flooded with protests from people who opposed the surcharge that would come with the free bulbs.

A company announcement said the 3.75 million CFL bulbs it has been storing in warehouses will be offered to community groups to give to needy customers. FirstEnergy is also working with retailers to offer CFL bulbs, including some of its 23-watt bulbs in storage, for no more than $1 each.

Anthony Rodriguez, a spokesman for the Ohio Consumers' Counsel, said making the bulbs voluntary was a positive move.

By law, every Ohio utility must help its customers use less electricity annually for the next 15 years. The goal is a one-fifth usage reduction by 2025 through energy efficiency upgrades.

FirstEnergy estimated a Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co. residential customer who uses an average of 750 kilowatt hours per month will pay an extra $1.57 in delivery charges per month in 2010, or $18.84 extra over the year, to help pay for the energy-saving program.

If approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, the requested increase covering the cost of the energy-savings plan would be added to the delivery rate, not the price of the power.

FirstEnergy's seven electric utility operating companies, including CEI, comprise the nation's fifth largest investor-owned electric system, with 4.5 million customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.


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