Concern Raised for Proposed Utility Rate Hike

People around Ohio are speaking out about proposed rate increases from some utility companies. Both American Electric Power and Duke Energy want to raise the fixed charge for customers, a charge that is paid before the meter starts running. 

Opponents argue that the increase has a disproportionate impact on lower-income residents. Pastor Grant Eckhart, of Jacob’s Porch Lutheran Campus Ministry in Columbus, is among those speaking out against the proposals. He explains that as a person of faith, he believes those on the margins of society should not be singled out.

“Since AEP has shown record profits and dividends, I believe they should show preference for those whom an extra $10 a month or so is going to be a big hit financially and it really significantly affect the poorest among us. That’s wrong,” said Eckhart.

Fixed charges cover expenses for distribution and equipment and are typically based on the volume of electricity. The utilities argue fixed charges would better reflect the cost associated with serving each customer. 

But Eckhart notes it takes away the customer incentive to reduce energy use and invest in energy efficiency. He contends that’s where electric companies should be focused.

“Further infrastructure around renewable resources, solar resources, all those kinds of things. Let’s see the money go there. That is a really important thing,” said Eckart. 

AEP customers could see their monthly fixed charge go up nearly 120-percent to $18.40. Under a Duke Energy proposal, the increase would be 280-percent to $22.77 per month.

Supporters of the plans contend increases in fixed charges will be balanced by reductions in other charges.

According to Ohio Citizen Action, more than 16-thousand people have sent public comments to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio asking the proposed increases be rejected. Eckhart encourages customers of all utilities to get involved.

“It’s important to get all the facts. It’s important to know what your provider is charging. It’s important to know where the money is being spent that you pay, and also to know what the rates are and whether or not you can tolerate this rate hike,” said Eckart.

PUCO pubic hearings on the AEP  case were held this spring, and the formal proceedings begin June 6th.

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