PSC approves rate increase for Kentucky Power
by IVY BRASHEAR Staff Reporter
HAZARD The Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) announced on Monday they had approved a settlement granting Kentucky Power Company a 12.5 percent rate increase for residential customers in 20 eastern Kentucky counties.
This increase raises the current average paid for electricity from $115 to $134.
This decision was reached in a settlement between Kentucky Power, the PSC and a group of organizations that had received full intervention status from the PSC. Intervention status for those organizations meant that no decision could be made about the rate increase without the Commission listening to the opinions of people in those organizations.
Among those granted full intervention status was Hazard-Perry County Community Ministries, Inc. Executive Director D.W. Bouchard, who said this status for Community Ministries is rare in comparison to other groups granted the status, like Wal Mart and the Kentucky School Board Association.
In order for the suits to go forward, Bouchard said. We were going to have to be listened to.
He said Community Ministries has been working for a long time trying to get this rate increase to either be stopped or lowered.
Weve been struggling and pushing here and there, making sure they (Kentucky Power) didnt get their 34 percent increase, he said, referring to the amount Kentucky Power had originally suggested rates be increased.
Bouchard was present at a PSC hearing about this rate increase hosted at the Hazard Community and Technical College in May. At that meeting, the PSC listened to and recorded public comments from Kentucky Powers residential customers to review later when making their final decision about whether or not they should grant the increase.
The public comment weighed on the Commission, Andrew Melnykovych, Public Information Officer for the PSC said. He said public comment in this case was very important, and noted that without it, the Commission would not have known about the threat of not clearing power line right-of-ways.
All the comments were looked at in more detail (in this case), Melnykovych said. The Commission had to make their determination based on the facts of the case.
As part of the settlement, Kentucky Power now has to clear right-of-ways and make reports to the PSC about progress of this effort.
The Corporate Communications Manager for Kentucky Power, Ronn Robinson, said the company was allotted an additional $10 million each year through the settlement to clear right-of-ways. This process will be completed through a four year cycle with tree-trimming occurring every year. He said this cycle will begin again after four years.
He said the companys goal is to have all the lines cleared within that four year cycle.
Robinson also said the company is trying to fully digest the announcement from the PSC to understand exactly what their place is in the matter.
The increase, Robinson said, will add approximately $19.29 onto residential customers electric bills each month, but added this amount is completely dependent upon how much electricity each residence uses.
Electricity is something consumers can control, Robinson said. If you reduce your usage, you will reduce your bill.
He added that he thinks this increase could make Kentucky Power customers become more conscience of their electricity usage.
The debate about the rate increase has lasted several weeks, with the main hitch in the plan to increase being concern that low income individuals would not be able to pay their electric bills if the rate went up.
Robinson said this issue is being addressed through low-income residents being subsidized on the bills of other Kentucky Power customers.
Residential customers are going to be charged an additional 15 cents on their bills that will go into a fund for low income residents. Kentucky Power shareholders will match this amount with 12.5 cents for every 15 cents collected.
Robinson said this donation will raise about $470,000 a year for deserving customers. The company had this system in place before its most recent settlement with PSC, but the amount given by customers has increased from 10 cents.
Even with this program in place, Bouchard said the people he helps through Community Ministries will still suffer as a result of this increase.
I think we will see even more people saying they cant make ends meet, Bouchard said. This will hit our people pretty hard.
Through it all, though, he said a rate increase of 12.5 percent is much better than an increase of 34 percent.
All things considered, Bouchard said. This is the best we were going to get.
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