Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 1, 2014

APCO seeks 17 percent rate hike

BECKLEY — Appalachian Power Company (APCO) announced Monday that it has filed a base rate increase request with the Public Service Commission of West Virginia.

APCO, which serves roughly 500,000 customers in West Virginia, is asking for an increase of $226 million, which would equate to approximately 17 percent tacked on to current rates.

According to Jeri Matheney, communications director for Appalachian Power, the request was filed Monday, but if approved, the rates won’t go into effect until 300 days later, or the end of April 2015.

Matheney said that the requested increase is needed to recover restoration costs incurred during both Super-storm Sandy in October 2012 and the derecho in June 2012.

“We’ve been carrying that on our books,” said Matheney. “The (Public Service Commis-sion) allows you to not request recovery immediately.

“We’ve been putting it off simply because of the state of the economy, and we know that our customers’ budgets have been stretched already, so we were trying to keep that in mind. But at this point, it’s time to start collecting those costs.”

Matheney said that aside from storm restoration costs, the requested increase also includes costs tied to APCO’s growing operating expenses and new vegetation or right-of-way management, which has already been approved.

“That program stemmed from the storm, when we recognized the need for better right-of-way maintenance,” said Matheney.

“While cycle trimming won’t eliminate outages from major events like the derecho and Sandy, it will help improve reliability, reduce power restoration times and minimize some restoration and ongoing maintenance costs,” said Cindy Miller Wiseman, manager of Appalachian Power’s external affairs, in an email received by The Register-Herald.  

Residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) would see a $21.77 increase on their monthly bill, bringing the total from $94 to $115.77. Those using 2,000 kWh per month would see a $44.59 increase on their bill, raising the total to $221.54.

Matheney said that the average residential customer uses approximately 1,200 kWh per month, and the rate increase would up the company’s price per kWh from 9.4 cents to 11.58 cents, which is still below the national average of 11.98 cents per kWh. This would be the first rate increase imposed by APCO since mid-2011, he said.

For those who anticipate issues with paying their monthly bill, Matheney said that they encourage customers to call them as soon as possible, as the company does provide payment options.

APCO offers an average monthly payment plan that serves to equalize bills to avoid spikes due to summer cooling and winter heating.

If the rate hike is approved, the PSC will schedule a public comment period before it goes into effect.

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