Customers to see increase in electric bills

Friday, May 30th 2008, 10:48 am
By: News 9

Associated Press

TULSA, Okla. -- Customers can expect a significant increase in their electric bills because of rising natural-gas prices, American Electric Power-Public Service Company of Oklahoma officials said.
   Earlier this month, the utility estimated that the average residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month will face a hike of $17.50.
   That increase represents a nearly 21 percent jump in residential customer bills.
   The chief power provider in Tulsa, AEP-PSO has seen its prices for natural gas climb 40 percent over the past year and, in turn, its cost to generate power has skyrocketed.
   State law prohibits the utility, which generates two-thirds of its power from natural gas, from making a profit on fuel, but the company is allowed to pass costs through to customers.
   "We are facing the same sort of price increases customers are seeing at the gas pump," said Alan Decker, AEP-PSO's director of regulatory affairs.
   In a hearing Thursday, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state agency that regulates utilities, set a date to review the increase.
   The fuel cost adjustment does not require commission approval, but it can be challenged by regulators.
   The three-member commission will examine how AEP-PSO buys fuel for its power plants and whether it was prudent in those decisions.
   That hearing, scheduled for June 26, also will take a broader look at how fuel-cost adjustments impact consumers.
   Assistant Attorney General Bill Humes, who represents consumers before the commission, said there are no "easy answers" to high energy prices.
   Tom Schroedter, executive director of the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers, represents several of the state's largest electricity users. Some of his clients will face more than a 30 percent increase in their electricity bills.