PUCO

The Columbus Dispatch - - Clpssi­fi­tieas - Dgearino@dis­patch.com @dan­gearino

ques­tions. Tes­ti­mony was of­fered in writ­ing and had been filed be­fore the hear­ing.

“There will be lit­tle ad­di­tional di­rect cost to AEP Ohio’s sys­tem” as a re­sult of the dis­count, said Charles Daitch, man­ager of en­ergy ini­tia­tives for Ama­zon, in his writ­ten tes­ti­mony.

He said the net cost would be small, in part be­cause Ama­zon has paid for elec­tric­ity sub­sta­tions at each of three data cen­ter sites, which is a cost that other­wise would be paid by AEP and passed on to its con­sumers.

Af­ter an un­spec­i­fied small cost to start, the data cen­ter projects would be on track to even­tu­ally pro­vide a net ben­e­fit to the AEP sys­tem, which would mean other cus­tomers would pay less than they would have with­out the projects, he said.

An­other wit­ness, Michael Haugh, an an­a­lyst for the Of­fice of the Ohio Con­sumers’ Coun­sel, has is­sued writ­ten tes­ti­mony and will ap­pear at the hear­ing some­time later.

“As noted econ­o­mist Mil­ton Fried­man fa­mously re­marked, ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’ — and AEP can be ex­pected to seek to make up the re­duced rev­enues from other cus­tomers,” Haugh said in his tes­ti­mony.

Ama­zon has not been forth­com­ing with de­tails about its plans.

In its ap­pli­ca­tion with the PUCO for the dis­count, the com­pany has blacked out just about every key num­ber, in­clud­ing es­ti­mates of to­tal sav­ings for Ama­zon and es­ti­mates of the com­pany’s to­tal em­ploy­ment and in­vest­ment in the project. The com­pany says the fig­ures should be treated as trade se­crets un­der Ohio law.

The co-ap­pli­cants for the dis­count are Va­data Inc., which is part of Ama­zon, and AEP, the Colum­bus-based util­ity. They are propos­ing a 10-year deal in which Ama­zon would not need to pay cer­tain parts of its elec­tric­ity bill and also would re­ceive a per­cent­age dis­count off of base de­liv­ery charges.

Scott Blake, an AEP spokesman, said such ar­range­ments can be ben­e­fi­cial.

“Part­ner­ing with com­pa­nies like Ama­zon to bring jobs and tax rev­enue to the com­mu­ni­ties we serve is a huge win for our state’s econ­omy. This will help in­crease Ama­zon’s in­vest­ment in our state,” he said.

Ohio law al­lows util­ity com­pa­nies to sub­mit these kinds of agree­ments to help en­cour­age large em­ploy­ers to make in­vest­ments in the state. The hear­ing is likely to con­clude this week, with a rul­ing by the PUCO to fol­low at some point.

Ad­vo­cates for pub­li­crecords ac­cess have raised con­cerns about the se­crecy in this case.

Den­nis Het­zel, pres­i­dent and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ohio News Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion, a trade group of which the Dis­patch is a mem­ber, said in Septem­ber that there is no clear rea­son why this in­for­ma­tion needs to be se­cret.

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