CHARLESTON, WV -- Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power have asked state regulators to approve a $68 million rate increase to help offset the power companies' projected fuel costs in the coming year.If approved by the Public Service Commission, the average residential customer could see his or her monthly bill go up by more than 4 percent.The companies made the request Monday as part of an annual Expanded Net Energy Cost surcharge review process.The surcharge, referred to as ENEC, is designed to reimburse the power companies for their past and ongoing fuel and purchased power costs. The surcharge is just one component of the total rate charged on a customer's power bill.The request marks the first time in three years the companies have asked for an increase in their ENEC rate. Last year, the PSC actually approved a 3 percent reduction in the fuel rate.In a press release, the companies said the new rate would increase the monthly bill for a residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month to $98.14, a 4.4 percent increase — or $4.14 — from their current bill of $94 a month.Consumer Advocate Division Director Jackie Roberts said Tuesday evening she had not yet seen the rate increase request, so it was premature to comment on the companies' plan. While the power companies said in the press release they had filed their case on Tuesday, it had not yet appeared on the PSC's website as of Tuesday evening.With the proposed increase, Appalachian Power said the new overall residential rate of 9.8 cents per kilowatt-hour would still be less than the national average residential electricity price of 12.2 cents.
The companies also said they would introduce new programs this year to help customers reduce their energy consumption.The companies plan to introduce an appliance recycling program in which customers could get $50 for turning in old refrigerators and freezers. They also plan to introduce a new program, similar to demand-response programs at large power users, that would provide customers with credits if they allow the power company to cycle their air conditioning units during times of high electricity demand.The companies also plan to add LED bulbs to the existing program that provides instant rebates to customers when they purchase energy-efficient light bulbs at major retailers.In a separate filing Tuesday, the companies modified their proposal to purchase the 50 percent stake of the Mitchell power plant in Moundsville currently owned by fellow American Electric Power subsidiary Ohio Power.Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, which planned on merging, originally sought to purchase the plant to meet the increased demand of the combined company.However, Virginia regulators — who have authority in the case because Appalachian Power serves customers in that state — rejected the plant purchase.In Tuesday's filing, the companies proposed selling the plant to Wheeling Power only and putting their merger on hold.
Selling the plant to Wheeling Power by June 30, the filing said, would help that company meet its expected power needs while avoiding scrutiny from Virginia regulators. The companies said they would revisit the idea of merging at a later date.Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org