Thursday, May 28, 2015

Appalachian Power president defends rate increase

Even with this week’s approved rate increases for customers of Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, one company executive maintains thousands of West Virginians are still getting good prices for electricity.
 “Before people rush to judgment about how the company is run or what we do or think that they can do it better, they really (need to) look at the underlying costs of providing electricity because this is no longer a declining cost business,” said Charles Patton, Appalachian Power’s president and chief operating officer.
The initial hike, set to take effect immediately, will be 11.8 percent. Once fully implemented, the increases will add up to $19.50 more each month for average customers.
Such costs are paid in a largely rural state that, Patton said, poses unique problems for the power system.
The company’s original proposal was for an additional $226 million.
The $123 million rate increase the state Public Service Commission approved Tuesday for both Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power included $79 million in base rate increases for infrastructure improvements throughout the system along with $44.5 million in surcharges to fund a new vegetation management program.
There are different increase percentages for customer classifications, meaning commercial and industrial customers will not see hikes as high as 16.1 percent.
Appalachian Power last saw a rate increase in 2011, prior to the devastating storms of 2012 in the forms of the June derecho and October’s Superstorm Sandy.
Together, Wheeling Power and Appalachian Power, both American Electric Power subsidiaries, serve 24 West Virginia counties.