In my work at Serving Our Seniors to help low to moderate income senior citizens make sure they can afford to heat their homes, I've learned a thing or two about the energy industry. Admittedly my experience is limited, but one thing's for certain, this is a complicated industry in which not all public servants who are able to prevent consumers from being scalped by high home heating prices want their constituents to have a better understanding of how the energy industry works.
Consider all the public service organizations and administrations involved in calculating the cost of heating fuel and energy. PUCO, (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio), FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission), the OCC (Ohio Consumers Counsel), our Ohio legislators and our U.S. legislators all play a part.
While putting together this upcoming public forum, “Affording Home Heating: What's In Our Future - Part II,” 2 p.m. Sept. 8, at the Sandusky State Theatre, I found out how hard it is to get some of these public servants to actually publicly discuss the future cost of home heating and the role they are playing in serving the public's best interest on this issue.
In early June I invited the PUCO commissioners and a representative from FERC to speak at the forum. Here's what I got — none of the five PUCO commissioners bothered to accept or reject the June invitation to be a panelist for Sept. 8 meeting. So I wrote each of the five commissioners again in July, extending the invitation again. The response was the same — nothing.
I did hear from FERC, State Relations, Office of External Affairs in Washington, D.C. They had a staffer call to say that they couldn't accept my invitation. So I asked if they had an expert who could participate by speaker phone. Their reply was that they were not able to participate in the forum by speaker phone because if they did it for us, they would have to do it for others. Hmmm. I'm not aware of a groundswell of public forums on affording home heating taking place across the country. Are you?
The suspicious side of me makes me wonder why they wouldn't want a better informed constituency. Could it be that if we don't understand what they do then we'll have nothing to gripe about? Now that's public service at its best!
Despite the lack of participation by two of the most prominent regulators in the energy industry, a fascinating panel of private entrepreneurs and public servants is assembling and will be speaking on the following topics:
Ohio Senator Mark Wagoner – “Legislative Reform on Electric Generation”
Mark Cironi, president, Green Energy Technologies – “Commercial Urban Windmills (the ‘WindCube’)”
Wilson Gonzalas and Chris Verich, The Ohio Consumers Counsel - "Net Metering" (getting paid for electricity you generate and feed back into the grid)
Bob Martin, engineer - "Heating Your Home with a Greenhouse"
Ken Beck, senior vice president, Lake Erie Electric - "Can the Grid Support A Move to Alternative Energy”
Consumers don’t have to feel like they’re at the mercy of the utility industry and bulk fuel providers. But only when we know better, can we expect better and do better.
I hope you will attend.
What: Affording Home Heating: What's In Our Future - Part II
When: 2 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8
Where: Sandusky State Theatre