Contact: Anthony Rodriguez (614) 466-9547
COLUMBUS, Ohio – May 4, 2012 – Several of the charges that American Electric Power (AEP) has proposed for its rate plan should not be collected from residential customers, the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) said in testimony filed today.
AEP's request to collect two brand new charges totaling more than $659 million should be denied, the OCC said. Another charge should be modified to ensure customers can receive a refund should the results of other pending cases affect the outcome of what AEP can charge its customers.
"The PUCO acted to protect Ohio consumers when it rejected the original settlement of this case," Consumers' Counsel Bruce Weston said. "At that time the PUCO emphasized its need for information in the ratemaking process, and today OCC is submitting testimony with our concerns about the impact of AEP's rate proposal on Ohioans' electricity bills."
In the OCC's testimony, the residential consumer advocate contends AEP's proposal for a "Rate Stability Rider" is not needed, and a "Phased-In Recovery Rider" should be modified with lower interest rates and the potential to refund to customers costs that are a part of other pending cases.
The OCC also has proposed that the affordability of AEP's electric rates for customers be considered in the ratemaking process. Many AEP customers struggle to afford electric service, as more than 72,500 customers were disconnected in 2011 alone. Additionally, more than 112,000 residential customers (9 percent) use the low-income Percentage of Income Payment Program and more than 51,000 customers (4 percent) have payment plans to keep their electric service turned on. As poverty and unemployment continue to negatively affect Ohioans, utility rates must be kept affordable and consistent with Ohio law, the OCC said.
An evidentiary hearing, scheduled to begin May 14, is the next step in the case. Several weeks of hearings are expected for gathering evidence to make recommendations to the PUCO. A decision from the PUCO is not expected to come until at least July.
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