- Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) has named Commissioner Asim Haque to head the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Haque, the current vice chair, has served on the commission since Kasich appointed him to the regulatory body in 2013.
- Haque will replace current Chairman Andre Porter, who will step down on May 20 to accept a position in the private sector. Haque's current seat on the five-person commission will remain open until the governor names a replacement.
- Haque's appointment to the helm of PUCO comes as the state is working through a number of issues stemming from the shift to a cleaner energy mix, including Clean Power Plan compliance and ongoing debates about state incentives for aging coal and nuclear plants.
In a statement Monday, Kasich said that Asim Haque has shown "exceptional command of the issues and challenges facing Ohio’s energy markets."
"No one is better prepared to apply that level of expertise and independent judgment to the role of chairman," he added.
With statements like that, it's easy to forget that Haque is a relative newcomer to utility regulation. Appointed in 2013, he will become the fourth PUCO chair in as many years. The outgoing chair, Andre Porter, served for just a year at the helm before announcing last month he would leave to work for a grid operator in another state.
High on Haque's list of responsibilities when he takes the top seat will be overseeing continued negotiations over power plant subsidies in the state.
After PUCO unanimously approved income guarantees for aging coal and nuclear plants from FirstEnergy and AEP in March, federal power regulators blocked the subsidies, saying they overstepped the state's authority. Both companies have since altered their proposals and filed for rehearings.
While currently caught up in a judicial stay, Clean Power Plan compliance is likely to be another focus of Haque's time as chair.
Despite his state's legal opposition to the plan, Haque has positioned himself in the middle of many interstate regulatory conversations on the CPP. At meetings of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) last year, he floated ideas for using a carbon price as a compliance tool in organized markets and led a panel discussion on how the federal emissions regulation is redefining the role of baseload generation.
Though he is not registered with either party, the Columbus Dispatch reports Haque voted in the Democratic primary in 2004 and 2008. The commission currently has three Republicans, including the outgoing Porter, two independents and no Democrats. State law stipulates that one party may not hold more than three chairs on the commission.