FirstEnergy CEO Expresses Confidence to Shareholders

AKRON, Ohio — Shareholders of FirstEnergy Corp. today heard the utility’s CEO, Charles E. Jones, deliver an upbeat assessment of what he called “significant progress toward its goal of transitioning into a more fully regulated company that is better positioned to meet the energy needs of its customers, support its communities, and deliver greater value to shareholders.”

In his prepared remarks, Jones did not address speculation that its energy-generating subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions, is “flirting with bankruptcy” as concluded in a new report from the Cleveland-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

“I’ve been in this business for nearly 40 years, and the most important thing I’ve learned over the past four decades is that if you take care of the customer, everything else will take care of itself.  In other words, strong customer-focused businesses tend to be the most successful businesses,” Jones said.

FirstEnergy’s investments in the electric system support that philosophy, he continued.  Jones pointed to new rates now in place in eight of the company’s 10 electric utilities, which support continued investments in service reliability and recovery of the company’s costs, as well as FirstEnergy’s ongoing investment in its transmission network.

“We recently completed phase one of our Energizing the Future transmission investment program – and will spend an additional $4.2 to $5.8 billion through 2021 on projects that will help ensure our customers continue to benefit from a highly reliable, more resilient and more secure grid,” he said.

Jones said FirstEnergy’s focus on customers is also reflected in its new advertising campaign.  The campaign, called “You First,” promotes the company’s range of smart products and services that place the customer first – from energy efficiency programs that can save customers energy and money, to warranty programs that protect the home’s major appliances.

While FirstEnergy continues to focus on its transition to a more fully regulated business, Jones said the company strongly supports national and state-level efforts to preserve essential energy resources.

“We’re encouraged by the recently announced U.S. Department of Energy study to examine the full value that baseload generation plants fueled by coal and nuclear provide to our nation’s grid, economy and energy security,” he said.  “Among other issues, the study will focus on the reasons why these plants are prematurely closing, the risk to national and economic security if these closures continue, and what can be done to prevent further loss.”

At the same time, Jones said the company also supports Ohio’s Zero-Emissions Nuclear Resource, or ZEN, legislation, which would compensate nuclear plants on a per-megawatt basis for the unique benefits they bring to Ohio’s environment, fuel diversity, energy security and resiliency.

“Our Davis-Besse, Perry and Beaver Valley nuclear plants have the ability to operate 24/7 – generating enough electricity to power more than 4 million homes, around the clock.  In fact, nuclear facilities produce more than 90 percent of the carbon-free power in Ohio and Pennsylvania,” he said.

These nuclear plants directly employ approximately 2,300 people, support thousands of additional jobs, and contribute $29 million each year in state and local tax revenues, Jones said.  Yet he noted that nuclear facilities across the nation are closing prematurely, including four nuclear facilities in Wisconsin, Vermont and Nebraska that have already shut down, and at least seven others across the region that are in danger of closing.

“We simply cannot allow this to happen in Ohio and Pennsylvania – so if you share our concerns and live in either state, I encourage you to reach out to your local senator or representative,” Jones said.

A transcript of Jones’ prepared remarks can be found here.

SOURCE: FirstEnergy Corp.

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