Penelec seeking rate increase

Penelec is one of four FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiaries filing requests with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to increase rates effective Oct. 3.

Penelec has requested an increase of $119.8 million, or about 8.6 percent over current rates. If approved, the total bill for an average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month would increase 16.3 percent, or $19.58, for a new monthly bill of $140.04.

The company said the increases are needed to help ensure continued reliability enhancements for FirstEnergy’s 2 million Pennsylvania customers.

For Penn Power, this is the first base rate case filed in 26 years; for West Penn Power, the first in 20 years; and for Met-Ed and Penelec, the first in eight years.

“We have not had an increase in our base distribution rate since 1988. These are the costs that Penelec is directly responsible for – our wires, poles, equipment, meters and the salaries for the employees to do their jobs,” said FirstEnergy spokesman Scott Surgeoner. “We filed a request in 2006, but it was rejected by the PUC.”

FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania utilities currently have, on average, the lowest rates in the state among investor-owned electric distribution companies, according to a company press release. If approved, the new rates would still, on average, be lower than the average rates charged today by other Pennsylvania utilities.

Since 2006, FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania utilities have invested more than $1.8 billion for service-related enhancement projects for customers that have not been recovered through the rate process.

“Over the years, with strict cost management and careful planning, we have enhanced service reliability for our customers while holding the line on electric rates,” said Dave Karafa, president of Pennsylvania Operations for FirstEnergy in a statement. “Our proposed rate plans are needed in order to make critical customer enhancements, including infrastructure enhancements, by using technology to help reduce the number of outages and the duration and number of affected customers when an outage does occur. The plans are designed to bring our revenues in line with our costs, while minimizing the impact to our customers.”

The proposed increases, if approved, are not likely to take effect until Oct. 3.

“It typically takes about nine months for the PUC to make a decision. They (utilities) are required to give 60 days notice before the date when the increase is to go into effect. We will schedule public hearings to get public input,” PUC spokeswoman Robin Tilley said. “The decision depends on a number of things. The PUC can approve all of it, part of it or none of it.”

Meanwhile, FirstEnergy announced it plans to decrease its price to compare effective Sept. 1.

Penelec customers saw their residential rate for electricity increase from 7.73 cents per kilowatt hour to 9.28 cents per kilowatt hour June 1 as a result of the polar vortex in January, Surgeoner said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.