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Consumers Seeing Electricity Rate Hikes In April's Bill

The average electric bill in Central Ohio is $96 per month. Based on this average, with the new rates, customers will see their bills increase to approximately $109 per month - a $13 increase.

This is too much, says Ohio Consumers Council Janine Migden-Ostrander, "We're talking about very high increases for customers that we do not think are justified and are not based on cost of service."

The large increase is due in part to the Public Utilities Commission allowing AEP to collect the recently approved 7% increase retroactively, spreading the difference out over the rest of 2009. "We were ordered to collect it during the period April through December instead of January through December, so the monthly increase is a little bit higher than it would have been had we started our collection in January," says AEP spokesperson Jeff Rennie.

The Ohio Consumers Council believes that not only is the percent increase too high, but that there is no legal basis for the retroactive charges. "There is nothing in the law that allows them to do this, and there are years and years of precedent in law that says that you cannot go back and retroactively set a rate," says Midgen-Ostrander.

But AEP maintains that the increases are necessary. "We understand that this is difficult for customers to accept. Our costs have increased substantially over recent years, and unfortunately we've had to pass those costs on to customers," says Rennie.

The Ohio Consumers Council petitioned the Utilities Commission to reconsider the retroactive charges, but they were denied. Migden-Ostrander said the organization is evaluating further action.

AEP says that the rate increases will be smaller in 2010 and 2011. In 2010 the average rates will increase by an additional $2.40 per month, and in 2011 the average rates will increase again by about $6.90 per month.

Sadie Taylor, WOSU News