Ohio utility bills may see increase

MARIETTA — Local utility bills for small consumers may soon see a significant upfront increase due to changes in American Electric Power Ohio’s proposed service plan.

“If this goes through, as early as this summer customers could see a huge increase on their bills,” said Rachael Belz, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action.

AEP Ohio has proposed altering mandatory customer charges from $8.40 per month to $13.40 per month this year and to $18.40 per month in 2018.

Four types of charges make up an electric bill including a customer charge, a fixed fee established to pay for the costs associated with electric equipment and maintenance; a distribution service charge, a kilowatt-hour based volumetric charge for delivering electricity to a home, including use of local wires and other equipment to move electricity; a generation service charge, a kilowatt-hour based volumetric charge for the production of electricity; and a transmission service charge, a kilowatt-hour based volumetric charge for moving high-voltage electricity from power plants to the electric company. Electric distribution in the valley, regardless of provider, comes from AEP Ohio, meaning even those not billed directly by AEP will still have the changes on their bills.

The increased customer charge wouldn’t change overall profits for the company, said Matt Schilling, spokesman for Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

“AEP Ohio’s proposal is shifting from a volumetric charge to more of a fixed charge,” said Schilling. “But that’s only if it gets approved by the commission. We are holding both public hearings and taking public comments in the mail and online to hear from private customers how this will affect them. That will all be a part of the official testimony considered in the evidentiary hearing by the commission in June with a ruling expected later this summer.”

Justification for the change from bills based predominately on usage to fixed charges is to further infrastructure, according to AEP Ohio president Julie Sloat. “AEP Ohio is focusing on making investments that enhance the reliability and quality of service that we provide to our customers. This proposal will allow us to continue programs that have improved the reliability of our service in recent years and introduce new, smarter energy technologies on our system that help the system operate more efficiently and effectively,” said Sloat. “It also gives us a way to invest in renewable generation that will bring clean energy, jobs and support economic development in Ohio.”

At current AEP Ohio rates, the monthly consumption of 800 kilowatt hours in a month currently costs $115.95. If the proposed plan is approved by PUCO, that bill would increase by 2.43 percent immediately but then over time drop, assuming the same usage, by 3.57 percent in 2019 to $114.56 per month.

For information see puco.ohio.gov/be-informed/consumer-topics/aep-ohio-s-electric-security-plan-iii-extension.

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