COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Fresh on the heels of raising rates for certain Columbus customers, AEP Ohio on Thursday said it was planning for another rate hike affecting more of them.
A subsidiary of the power company has been gradually and automatically opting people into the Clean Energy Columbus Program. This switched them to clean energy sources, but gave customers a higher rate from 5.499 cents to 7.884 cents per kilowatt hour from 2022 into 2023. AEP clients have had the option to opt out of this program for lower rates, but they will have different choices regarding the latest hike.
AEP Ohio’s President Mark Reitter emailed customers Thursday evening to let them know that more energy usage and higher generation costs will lead to electric bill hikes for “many customers,” beginning in June. The company blamed factors including global demand, global supply chain issues as well as the war in Ukraine for changes in the cost of electricity production.
“Unfortunately, this change is out of our control and was determined by recent auctions to secure the energy supply needed to serve our customers,” Reitter wrote.
The president was referring to an external competitive auction process handled by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. During this process — which happens twice a year — the regulator creates a “Standard Service Offer” that sets the per-kilowatt-hour price of generating electricity before it is supplied to AEP Ohio and its customers. Because the state has a deregulated electric generation market, AEP customers can choose who generates their electricity, but if they don’t pick, they get the SSO price.
In the latest auction on March 7, rates cleared at $88.55 megawatts per hour, or around nine cents per kilowatt hour. At the SSO price that resulted as an average of that rate and one from a November auction, a typical customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month — which would see a $155 bill — can expect to see a $198 bill instead, according to AEP Ohio. The power company said the increased generation supply cost tacked on bills would not come back to it as any form of profit.
AEP customers still have options, however, as they can choose who generates their electricity rather than accept the SSO price. PUCO has created a website, Energy Choice Ohio, to review offers from electric generation suppliers. AEP Ohio also offers assistance like payment extensions and different monthly payment plans for customers struggling with higher bills.
The price hike also does not factor in another rate hike that AEP wants in the aftermath of its major summer 2022 power outage in central Ohio. The company filed paperwork in January for “Electric Security Plan V” with PUCO, which would raise customer rates to offset $2 billion in upgrades. For the same 1,000 kWh household, that plan would send bills of $166.74 a month instead of $155, company analysts testified to PUCO.
At the end of 2022, AEP Ohio blamed plants coming into contact with sagging power lines for leaving more than 600,000 central Ohioans without power in the heat of the summer. PUCO also recently cleared the company of any legal wrongdoing in the matter, but AEP’s grid regulator did ask AEP to step up its vegetation cleanup.
The new rates will be in effect until May 2024, after AEP Ohio receives the results of the next competitive auctions for electric generation supply.