The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio says it will consider restoring the discounted rate that First Energy - until recently - charged customers living in all-electric homes. Ideastream's Bill Rice reports.
The Governor, state legislators… and, most of all, First Energy customers who heat with electricity.. have complained loudly since the elimination last year of deep discounts that have been in place for years for all-electric homes. The resulting increases began showing up in spades with the winter weather, doubling and even in some cases tripling heating bill for those customers. The PUCO, which regulates utilities statewide, today said it would consider and likely restore the discounts at its commission meeting next week. Shana Eislestein a PUCO spokesperson, says the agency is looking at the issue both short and long term.
Eislestein: "First and foremost, provide rate relief to these customers and restore the discounts, and then give them time to appropriately and thoroughly focus on possible alternatives that will get them to the best long term solution when it comes to this issue."
Governor Strickland has been exerting perhaps the most pressure to restore the discounts. Here's his spokesperson, Amanda Wurst.
Wurst: "The Governor believes that it's the dead of winter, we're in the middle of a recession, and rate payers shouldn't be paying these outragious amounts for electricity."
But just how outrageous the undiscounted rates are depends on who you ask. First Energy maintains that all-electric homeowners were paying disproportionately low heating bills compared to those hammered by big spikes in natural gas prices several years ago.
Two weeks ago, to assuage angry customers, First Energy filed a proposal that would restore 80 percent of the discount, but then gradually eliminate it over the next several years. That proposal is still in play. Today, the company said it would work with the PUCO to resolve the issue, but any workable solution has to "reflect the cost incurred to serve those customers."