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DP&L’s requested rate hike draws opposition

UPDATE@ 11:39 a.m. (May 10)

Another public hearing on the Dayton Power and Light proposed rate hike is set to take place Thursday night at 6 p.m. The hearing will be held at the Dayton Municipal building.  

FIRST REPORT:

Raising Dayton Power & Light’s fixed residential charges will hurt low-income Dayton residents and those who take steps to conserve energy, several witnesses told the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) in a public hearing Tuesday.

“It’s going to hurt people who use less electricity because even before you flip this switch on, you’re going to get hit with this rate,” said Dayton attorney Phillip Leppla, who testified against the utility’s requested rate boost

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In 2015, DP&L applied to PUCO increase its revenues for electric distribution service by $65.8 million annually. The utility’s application included a proposal to increase the fixed residential customer charge from $4.25 to $13.76 a month, along with a corresponding reduction in charges based on usage.

However, this March, PUCO staff recommended limiting that increase in the range of $23.2 to $28.1 million, and limiting the customer charge to no more than $7.88 per month.

The PUCO held a public hearing Tuesday at Dayton City Hall on the requested hike, with a second public hearing set for 6 p.m. Thursday, also at city hall (at 101 W. Third St.)

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After an evidentiary hearing in Columbus, the five-member commission will decide whether DP&L’s charges will increase, and if so, by how much. The PUCO is free to disregard its staff recommendation.

Matthew Currie, a Dayton attorney for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality Inc., said too many residents in the area are “severely burdened” with housing costs, paying 50 percent or more of their gross income on housing.

Heavier fixed electric charges will only hurt those people, ultimately forcing more evictions and foreclosures, Currie argued.

“These increases matter and have real consequences,” Currie said.

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Oakwood resident Joe Fulford noted a recent PUCO forecast which predicted that DP&L’s summer peak load would flatten out from 2017 to the year 2036. He opposed the hike.

“This is not a good path,” Fulford said.

Ohio environmental and consumers’ groups oppose the hike, calling DP&L’s original proposal a “tripling” of a fee every utility customer must pay.

The increase will “force (DP&L’s) residential customers in Southwestern Ohio to pay $114 more a year in fees before you even flip on a light switch,” said a joint statement from Ohio Citizen Action, Ohio Faith in Public Life and the Consumers Union.

“DP&L’s proposal would raise what’s called the ‘customer charge’ portion of residents’ bills from $51 a year to $165 a year, a 223 percent increase,” the groups said.

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Rachael Belz, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, said utilities Duke and AEP ultimately withdrew their own proposed fixed rate hikes. She and others testifying urged DP&L to do the same.

Jeff Hoagland spoke on behalf of DP&L, telling commission members the company has supported Wright-Patterson Air Force Base — Ohio’s largest single-site employer with about 27,500 workers — Fuyao Glass America, Midmark, CareSource and other large local employers.

“DP&L is one reason why the Dayton economy is so strong today,” Hoagland said.

Michael Roediger, chief executive of Dayton Art Institute, also praised DP&L’s support for the institute and elsewhere, calling the company “good community citizens.”

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The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel has called for DP&L and other Ohio electric companies to cut their rates after last year’s federal income tax cut for corporations.

“If utility companies are paying less, customers should be too,” the office has said.

DP&L has about 520,000 customer in 24 Ohio counties.

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