FirstEnergy wants to raise electric rates

SANDUSKY Residents and manufacturers could soon be zapped with higher electric bills.
JACOB LAMMERS
May 24, 2010

SANDUSKY

Residents and manufacturers could soon be zapped with higher electric bills.

Ohio Edison, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., has filed for a rate increase through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, said PUCO spokeswoman Shana Eiselstein. PUCO is expected to either approve or deny the rate increase by the end of the year.

FirstEnergy decided to pursue this increase because it's at the tail end of "a rate stabilization plan," FirstEnergy spokeswoman Ellen Raines said.

Ohio Edison has not had a rate hike since 1990, she added. Last year, however, the company eliminated longtime discounts on rates for all-electric homes. People who purchased or rented electric-heated homes and signed up for service after Jan. 1, 2007, were slammed with unexpected higher electric bills.

"We filed for the increase in the hope that we will keep our revenue more in line with our costs," Raines said. "If you look at surveys done, energy costs -- while important -- rank much lower (than other services)."

According to Area Development magazine, energy and availability costs rank ninth behind labor costs, transportation and taxes, Raines said.

An economic study, produced by Austin-based economic development firm AngelouEconomics, indicates high utility rates could pose a significant challenge in attracting new advanced manufacturing to the Erie County.

"For power-hungry manufacturers with heavy average and peak loads, these rates represent a significant added cost that dissuade a manufacturer from operating in Erie County," the study said.

The study compared rates charged in Erie County to similar counties in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Tennessee.

Here, the average commercial price of electricity approaches 10 cents per kilowatt hour, while the industrial rate is about 5.5 cents per kilowatt hour. In the other communities, the commercial rate ranged from 5.8 to 7.4 cents per kilowatt hour and the industrial rate was about 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

"If someone is looking at this location and is high technology -- again we're going to be competitive with our rates with other areas," said Gary Mortus, Ohio Edison area manager. "I don't believe there's a huge difference in cost."

What you would pay

A majority of Ohio Edison customers should anticipate an 8 percent increase on their monthly electrical bill, Raines said.

*Residential - $3 increase each month (with an average use of 500 kilowatt hours each month)

*Commercial - $10-$20 increase each month (depending on usage)

*Industrial - Expected not to increase under the rate hike proposal

Source: FirstEnergy Corp.

Want to go?

WHAT: The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is hosting a public hearing regarding the proposed electric rate increase. People are encouraged to express their opinions on the proposal.

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. March 17

WHERE: Erie County Office Building, Commission Chambers, Third Floor, 247 Columbus Ave., Sandusky