AEP Ohio customers to share in refund

$84 million allocated to residental customers

Some AEP Ohio customers could see a refund on their June bill because of a $100 million lawsuit over rate issues.

The settlement calls for $100 million to be returned to AEP Ohio customers, with approximately $84 million allocated to residential customers. The remaining $16 million will be allocated in a manner yet-to-determined by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, according to PUCO spokesman Matt Schilling.

In Washington County, AEP Ohio, legal name Ohio Power, serves 27,709 customers in the southern half of the county, as well as portions in the north and the northwestern corner. The rest of the county is serviced by Washington Electric Cooperative.

The refund was agreed to as part of a major settlement that AEP Ohio, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and several other parties negotiated in December 2016. The settlement resolved rate issues in lawsuits and legal challenges in 14 cases.

“The refunds stem from a global settlement that resolved multiple cases involving AEP Ohio,” said Schilling. “Several groups challenged various commission rulings, and a few cases were remanded back to the PUCO by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Rather than litigating each individual issue, several parties to the case filed a settlement agreement to resolve all of the various issues. One of which was an allegation that certain costs were being collected twice in different places by AEP Ohio. Groups or individuals do not have to have participated in settlement discussion to be eligible for the credits.”

Some of the other parties involved include Ohio Energy Group, Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group, Direct Energy, Constellation Energy, Interstate Gas Supply, Kroger, Appalachian Peace and Justice Network, Industrial Energy Users – Ohio, EnerNOC and the Ohio Hospital Association.

According to AEP, a one-time bill credit will be issued to those AEP Ohio customers who purchased their generation service from AEP Ohio through its Standard Service Offer any time from August 2012 through May 2015. Credit amounts are based on how much electricity customers used. An average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month during the period should see a credit of about $60.

“The amount of the credit is based on a customer’s total usage (in the time period),” said Scott Blake, AEP Ohio spokesman. “If they used an average of 1,000 kWh per month during this entire timeframe, their credit would be about $60. A typical AEP Ohio customer uses about 1,000 kWh per month, but individual usage can vary widely. A person using 500 kWh per month on average during the timeframe would get an approximate $30 credit.”

The credit amount will show on June bills. Printing of those bills began May 30, according to Blake.

“Eligible customers should see their bills with the credit by the end of June. It just depends on what billing cycle they are on as to when the bill will be delivered,” he said. “We can’t reveal any information about the amount of a credit that any customer, including Washington County, might receive.”

Ohio Citizen Action, a grassroots organization representing residents of Ohio, has been vocal with criticism of AEP Ohio’s practices that led to the lawsuit, as well as a proposal to raise rates by as early as this summer.

“The reason some customers might get this refund is AEP got caught in a lawsuit for overcharging people. The reason they overcharged people is the same reason they are attempting to get a customer bailout on the Kyger Creek (Gallia County) and Clifty Creek (Indiana) coal plants and why they are proposing yet another rate increase at the PUCO — they are losing money,” said Melissa English, development director for Ohio Citizen Action. “Their coal plants are not profitable in a landscape dominated by natural gas and greater energy efficiency, so they’re reaching into customers’ pockets however they can. We’re working to stop them at the legislature and the PUCO so there’s no need for a lawsuit later.”

A public comment period has ended and a ruling is expected this summer on whether AEP should increase their fixed rate from $8.40 a month to $18.40 a month by 2018. Washington County Health Commissioner Dick Wittberg, who encouraged residents to attend a PUCO public hearing at Washington State Community College in April, is very much against the increase, saying it would punish the most vulnerable citizens.

“They are talking about a way to graduate the fee so that those who use more pay more, and that’s the way it should be,” he said. “Right now it’s a fixed rate regardless of how much you use and raising the user fee is penalizing people who are trying to conserve energy. It is impacting our poorest residents in Washington County.”

At a glance

To qualify customers must have:

¯ Received (or be in line to receive) a June bill from AEP Ohio.

¯ Purchased at least some of their energy through the AEP Ohio Standard Service Offer between August 2012 and May 2015. The energy purchased from a competitive supplier is not subject to the credit. The SSO is the default option for customers who do not choose a competitive supplier.

Source: AEP Ohio.

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