Ohio governor taps wind critic Randazzo as utility commission chair

Source: By Gavin Bade, Utility Dive • Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2019

  • Ohio Gov. Doug DeWine, R, on Monday, named energy attorney and lobbyist Samuel Randazzo as the new chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO), sparking criticism from renewable energy advocates and environmentalists.
  • Randazzo, a former lobbyist for industrial energy consumers, has worked against wind development in Ohio for years and helped craft a 2014 state law that froze renewable energy and efficiency standards. In a 2018 report, he wrote renewable resources “don’t show up to work” and criticized the “excess investment” of utility grid modernization initiatives and the cost-of-service regulatory model.
  • Current Chairman Asim Haque will step down in March to join grid operator PJM as its executive director of strategic policy and external affairs. One vacancy remains on the commission.

Dive Insight:

Randazzo’s appointment to the head of the Ohio commission will likely chill renewable energy investment in the state and could mean more scrutiny of utility earnings and grid modernization plans.

As a lobbyist for the Industrial Energy Users of Ohio (IEU-Ohio), Randazzo has been a consistent critic of utility-scale renewables and worked closely with Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz to craft legislation in 2014 to freeze the state’s renewable energy and efficiency mandates for two years, emails released by the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) show.

Randazzo also lobbied on behalf of Greenwich Neighbors United, an anti-wind group in the state, and the Ohio Gas Company, according to EPI, a liberal watchdog group. In his role for industrial consumers, he pushed for rate designs that would advantage large businesses while increasing costs for residential customers.

In a 2018 report for IEU-Ohio, Randazzo criticized renewable energy and the monopoly utility model while calling for greater “customer choice” in electricity.

“The cost-plus traditional regulation formula used to set prices for regulated services paid by ‘captive customers’ tends to encourage excess investment and overcapitalized lines of business,” Randazzo wrote. “The current somewhat politicized regulatory emphasis on ‘grid modernization’ or ‘smart grids’ is a signal that regulators may offer little resistance to this excess and overcapitalized investment tendency which results, under regulation, in excessive prices.”

Randazzo went on to argue that “history tells us” that this “excess investment and capitalization tendency will give way to a ‘correction’ that broadly affects financial markets and credit,” like the 2008 financial crisis.

“Might the Constitutional authority of Ohio’s municipalities provide some ‘bypass’ opportunities?” he wrote.

Throughout the five-page introduction, the lobbyist also criticized the earning rates of monopoly utilities in the state, decried industrial demand response programs and questioned the reliability of renewable energy.

“Despite the obvious reliability-related problems created by deploying intermittent (don’t show up for work) and non-dispatchable (can’t be made to show up for work) generating technologies, government (local, state and federal) continues to spend taxpayers’ and customers’ money to fund subsidies for this purpose,” he wrote.