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With PPA deal in jeopardy, AEP Ohio's clean energy commitments could be too

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With PPA deal in jeopardy, AEP Ohio's clean energy commitments could be too

WhenAEP Ohio reached its settlement agreement on its subsidy plan in December 2015,the company committedto developing at least 900 MW of wind and solar projects in the state over the nextfive years. The American ElectricPower Co. Inc. utility's planned clean energy investments and commitmentto retiring, refueling or repowering its coal units was the driving factor in gettingthe Sierra Club to sign off on the proposal.

It isnow unclear whether AEP will uphold its commitments to renewable energy developmentin Ohio on the heels of FERC's decisionto revoke waivers of affiliate power sales restrictions for AEP and subsidiaries. The halts the eight-year subsidyplans unanimously approvedand modified March 31 by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for AEP Ohio andFirstEnergy's utilities.

AEP Chairman,President and CEO Nicholas Akins told investors and analysts April 28 that the companywill explore selling its generationassets and pursue reregulation in Ohio.

"Thereare provisions in Ohio law that would allow AEP Ohio to build and own renewables,"AEP spokeswoman Melissa McHenry said. "We are still assessing whether or notwe want to continue with the PPA stipulation commitments in light of the FERC orderthat would not allow the PPA to go forward. There is nothing in the FERC order thatwould prevent us from entering into renewable PPAs in Ohio."

McHenrysaid AEP "also will advocate for legislation in Ohio that would reregulategeneration in the state or provide a mechanism for AEP Ohio to own and develop generationassets, including the plants included in the PPA and renewables."

FirstEnergysaid it is exploring several options, including submitting the PPA plan for FERCreview.

SierraClub did not sign on toFirstEnergy's stipulation agreement, which it called "an anti-competitive bailoutfor two aging power plants."

FirstEnergy,under its settlement, said it would reduce carbon dioxide emissions across the company'ssix-state footprint by at least 90% below 2005 levels by 2045. In addition, thecompany agreed to expand energy efficiency offerings and evaluate smart grid technologies,battery storage and renewable resources, including the potential procurement of100 MW of new wind or solar resources in Ohio.

The SierraClub called the commitments "meaningless window dressing."

Inan April 28 news release,the environmental group said FERC's ruling "delivers [a] heavy blow to OhioUtility attempts to prop up aging coal and nuclear plants."

"Ohio'stransition away from coal to cleaner sources of energy is inevitable and irreversibleand our coal power plant workers and miners deserve a reasonable transition planfrom our state," Daniel Sawmiller, senior campaign representative for the SierraClub's Beyond Coal campaign, said in a written statement. "We will continueto be engaged in these legal proceedings, but it's time to get serious about developingnew clean energy in Ohio, modernizing our grid and infrastructure and finding waysto be as efficient as we can with how we use energy. We have a lot of opportunityin this state, and we look forward to having that conversation."

The attention,at least in Ohio, shifts to the possibility of reregulation and how PUCO will treata similar subsidy planfiled by AES Corp. subsidiaryDayton Power and Light Co.As part of its electric security plan filed Feb. 22, DP&L is asking for an for its share ofmore than 8,000 MW of coal-fired generation. (Case Nos. 16-0395-EL-SSO, 16-0397-EL-AAMand 16-0396-EL-ATA)

Anotherkey change outside of FERC's ruling is that PUCO Chairman Andre Porter, who oversawthe final year of the AEP and FirstEnergy cases, has announced his resignation.

AEP Ohiois the trade name of Ohio Power Co.