August 1, 2008

Duke Energy Seeks OK for Rate Increase

By John Nolan, Dayton Daily News, Ohio

Aug. 1--Duke Energy Ohio wants to boost its electricity revenues by 6.2 percent annually beginning in 2009, according to its newest rate pricing proposal filed with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

It would increase the electricity bill of a typical residential consumer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month from $110.89 to $115.70 at the start of 2009. Duke Energy said this comparison doesn't include the additional effect of the company's recent filing for a delivery rate increase of 5 percent, which the company expects to be in effect during the second quarter of 2009.

Duke's service territory stretches from the Springboro area south to the Ohio River.

Duke Energy and two of Ohio's other major utilities, American Electric Power and FirstEnergy Corp., filed their electric rate proposals with the PUCO on Thursday, July 31, because their existing electric rate pricing plans expire at the end of December 2008. The PUCO has 150 days in which to rule on the requests, and will schedule local public hearings during that time.

Dayton Power & Light Co.'s currently approved electric rate plan stretches through the end of 2010, allowing it 3 percent rate increases in both 2009 and 2010, so the company does not face the same deadline pressure as the other big Ohio utilities.

DP&L spokesman Tom Tatham said his company intends to file a rate proposal this fall. He said it will incorporate the previously approved 2009 and 2010 rate increases and request approval for charging customers for the costs imposed by Ohio's new energy law requirements for renewable energy generation and energy efficiency programs.

The Ohio Consumers' Counsel office, which represents Ohio's residential consumers in utility rate matters, said it will scrutinize the companies' requests. Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander said she is concerned about the effect that rate increases will have on consumers already hit by price increases for food and gasoline.

"Any rate increases would be on the heels of the higher distribution rates proposed by most of Ohio's major electric and natural gas utilities," Migden-Ostrander said.

Duke said it proposed a new pilot program to help low-income customers by providing rate discounts totaling $1.5 million during the next three years for those who qualify by meeting income guidelines. Duke said its proposal would also expand energy efficiency and home weatherization programs, boosting funding for low-income weatherization programs to $3 million over the next three years.

In May, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland signed into law the state's new energy law, which state officials said is intended to ensure fair and predictable electricity pricing. It also establishes a requirement that, by 2025, a total of 25 percent of the energy sold in Ohio must come from advanced and renewable energy sources, including wind turbines and clean-coal technologies.


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