According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) issued rules to help businesses and homeowners produce their own electricity at lower prices and with less effort. PUCO chairman Alan Schriber said the commission’s order would promote increased alternative-energy production across utilities’ power-distribution systems.

At present, utilities tend to discourage such alternative generation by boosting interconnection rates and fees as well as the cost of using electricity from the grid when the alternative power sources stop working.

“Regulators must take down the barriers that are created by the utilities, and this is exactly what we are attempting to do,” Schriber said. Richard Stuebi, BP fellow for energy and environmental advancement at the Cleveland Foundation, said Ohio’s utility rates appear to hamper alternative generation, which is illogical as the state attempts to develop industries, such as fuel cells.

Meanwhile, Ohio state Rep. Jim McGregor, R-Gahanna, announced that by the end of 2007, a standard would be developed that would require the state’s utilities to purchase or generate a specific portion of electricity from green or advanced technologies. He noted some large companies are against such a renewable portfolio standard because they fear a rise in overall rates. As a concession, the proposed legislation might include rules that would limit the size of alternative-power stations.

Mark Shanahan, the energy adviser for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, said the administration intends to allocate $250 million in tax-exempt financing to promote advanced energy initiatives such as wind, solar, fuel cells and clean coal.   EC