Dueling proposals would regulate Ohio ‘submeter’ companies

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Dueling proposals to regulate companies that serve as intermediaries between utilities and certain apartment complexes and condominiums are percolating at the Ohio Statehouse.

Ohio Sen. Kevin Bacon and Rep. Mike Duffey, a Worthington Republican, both recently introduced bills regarding submeter companies, The Columbus Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2bpjvfa) reported.

Duffey’s plan limits what submeter companies can charge to the regulated prices of utilities. It directs the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to set the rules.

The legislation proposed by Bacon would increase disclosure to consumers and institutes a complaint process. It requires landlords and submeter companies to select one of four methods of setting utility rates. The outcome could be rates higher or lower than those charged by regulated utilities, depending on the chosen method.

Bacon, a Minerva Park Republican, said his intent is to start a conversation about how the Ohio General Assembly can do a better job of protecting consumers from submeter companies, which often provide utilities at a marked-up cost.

“It really is a starting point,” he said. “I don’t know where this is going to end.”

He said he wants to find an approach to the issue that protects the public but can attract enough support from lawmakers to pass.

“I think many legislators would rather hold a flaming porcupine before they introduce a submeter bill,” Bacon said.

Some submeter companies already favor Bacon’s proposal. Michael Gonidakis, a lobbyist for American Power & Light, a Westerville submeter company, said Bacon’s bill “puts consumers first while balancing a legitimate business’ ability to operate.”

Gonidakis was critical of Duffey’s bill, saying it “lays the groundwork to legislatively put legitimate companies out of business and kill jobs.”

But the Office of the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel, a consumer advocate, praised Duffey’s bill.

Spokesman Dan Doron said lawmakers should consider other approaches where “protection of Ohio utility consumers would be assured.”


Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com