In its order, the commission found that a June 2018 Ohio Supreme Court ruling “rendered the same charge by DP&L unlawful and directed DP&L to immediately eliminate the charge,” PUCO said in a release.
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A PUCO spokesman said Friday DP&L was not ordered to give customers a refund. Instead, the utility was told to file revised rates.
In a response to the PUCO ruling, DP&L said it already maintains “the lowest residential rates among Ohio’s investor-owned utilities and some of the lowest residential rates in the country.”
“DP&L is disappointed with this decision because it negatively impacts our ability to move forward with investments in the distribution system that allow us to meet customer needs,” Vince Parisi, DP&L president and chief executive, said in a statement. “DP&L customers deserve safe, reliable service and today’s order challenges our capacity to continue meeting those expectations. We will work with the PUCO to resolve their concerns to reach a constructive outcome that will allow DP&L to meet our customers’ expectations.”
In October 2017, the PUCO authorized DP&L’s electric security plan, which allowed DP&L to establish the distribution modernization rider designed to collect $315 million over three years to ensure the utility would be financially healthy enough to make investments in its grid.
But the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel opposed the rider — and even held that its name was misleading — because the PUCO did not require DP&L to spend money collected from the charge on modernizing its power distribution grid.
The relevant Supreme Court ruling had struck down a similar charge for Akron-based FirstEnergy.
"The PUCO should not repeat the recent travesty of justice for consumers regarding FirstEnergy's nearly identical charge that the Supreme Court found to be unlawful," the consumers' office said in an August filing before the PUCO. "There, FirstEnergy walked away with nearly a half-billion dollars of improper, so-called distribution modernization charges. FirstEnergy didn't have to refund its charges to consumers, because the PUCO declined to make the charges subject to refund."
According to that office, DP&L customers as of this summer had already paid about $175 million for the charge.