Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 1, 2014

APCO seeking one percent rate decrease

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Appalachian Power submitted filings Monday with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) that could reduce customer bills approximately one percent by early 2015.

The power company is seeking to hold its base rate steady for the next two years, and it is also asking for permission to lower customer rates, company officials said in a statement released Monday.

APCO’s current base rates were approved in 2011, company officials said. In its biennial filing Monday, costs from 2012 and 2013 were examined.

Despite additional and unexpected costs of $55 million to restore service to customers following a derecho wind storm, a widespread ice storm and other severe weather events, APCO will not request a base rate increase. The base rate makes up 67 percent of a customer’s total bill.

“Our employees have worked hard to reduce costs throughout the company,” Charles Patton, president and chief operating officer, said. “In fact, now we’re undergoing an intensive effort to evaluate our work processes and add value to our customers. That has helped achieve the goal to keep base rates level.”

The second rate case filed Monday requests a reduction in a separate rate adjustment clause (RAC), company officials said. It would recover the company’s incremental participation costs in Virginia Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) program.

The reduction, if approved by the SCC, will amount to a customer decrease of approximately one percent, and will be implemented in early 2015, Appalachian officials said.

Blaine Braithwaite, executive director of the South Bluefield Neighborhood Association, said one percent is not a large decrease in power bills.

“It’s not, and what you have to look at is the volume of customers,” he said. “Appalachian Power probably has more customers in the western part in Virginia than what they have in West Virginia. So their costs are amortized (spread out over a given length of time). It’s kind of like your mortgage. You borrow, say $60,000. What they do is add up the total interest, and then they amortize that cost into 30 equal payments.”

“It’s not a lot, but you have to question why they’re needing a $68 million increase on the West Virginia side three weeks ago and a one percent reduction on the Virginia side this week,” Braithwaite said. “It’s the same company. They’re looking at not only West Virginia, but Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio, and their corporate headquarters are in Columbus, Ohio.”

Braithwaite said regulatory agencies in each of the states need to look at power rates.

“At some time regulators in both states, in all states, need to get together and look at the big picture, because these companies are not losing money. It’s not like their stock is unattractive to investors on Wall Street,” he said.

Appalachian Power is also requesting approval for two new programs designed to help reduce energy use, company officials said. An energy efficiency program focuses on lower-income customers who often have few resources or opportunity to invest in energy efficient homes or technologies. The company proposes to work with weatherization agencies in the region to provide home energy services. Another part of the program would distribute compact fluorescent light bulbs through food banks.