$30K or $2,500? Ohio family fights bill for electric service to new home

Contractors listed dramatically different prices; PUCO, family, AES Ohio have conference Thursday

A Columbus couple appealed to state regulators to have their newly built Marysville home withdrawn from AES Ohio electric service territory after agreeing to pay AES Ohio nearly $30,000 to extend electric service to their new home — a service the couple says another company can perform for just $2,500.

A Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) settlement conference on the matter between the couple and AES Ohio is scheduled for Thursday.

According to a formal complaint to the PUCO by Michael and Rachel Hart, they face an AES Ohio bill of nearly $30,000 for work to extend service to their new home on state Route 736 just south of Marysville, northwest of Columbus.

The proposed construction would involve three utility poles, a riser, underground and overhead cables, as well as a transformer, according to a Feb. 23 Dayton Power & Light invoice the couple offered to the PUCO as part of their complaint. (Dayton Power & Light rebranded to AES Ohio last year.)

The utility’s total quote for service came to $29,569.54, while a rural electric service company says it can do the job for $2,500, according to the couple’s explanation of their situation.

“I am filing this complaint to communicate an unreasonable practice of AES Ohio,” wrote Rachel Hart in her complaint to the PUCO. “My home is on the border of (service) territories of Union Rural Electric and AES Ohio. The home is within the territory of AES. I received a quote of electric service of nearly $30,000.

“URE (Union Rural Electric) quoted me $2,500 for service if I was released from AES Ohio territory,” she added. “AES Ohio is refusing to release me from their territory.”

She added: “It is unreasonable for me to pay ten times more for electric service when my home is on the border of the territory.”

In a filed answer to the couple’s complaint, AES Ohio told the PUCO that Hart requested the construction of an electric line extension to supply service to a single-family residence to be located at or near 12132 State Route 736.

An invoice attached to the Harts’ complaint puts the cost of the project at just over $29,569. But in its response to the complaint, the utility said the Harts agreed to pay $30,925.78 for the service extension.

“This dispute concerns a line extension project requested by a customer,” AES Ohio spokeswoman Mary Ann Kabel told the Dayton Daily News. “AES Ohio proactively asked the PUCO to schedule a mediation between the company and the customer to explore solutions to resolve the dispute.”

Asked about the difference between the two quoted prices, Kabel said: “AES Ohio is committed to exploring potential solutions for this customer, and is following the PUCO’s process for doing so.”

“At all pertinent times, AES Ohio has complied with all relevant statutes, regulations, orders, and approved tariffs,” the utility told the PUCO in its filing answering the complaint.

AES attorney Christopher Hollon asked PUCO to dismiss the complaint, arguing that AES Ohio has “exclusive right” to furnish electric service to the new home’s location.

In an interview, Rachel Hart acknowledged that she signed a contract with AES Ohio for the service infrastructure because she wanted to ensure her family’s new home had electric service by the time her family moved in by the end of September.

The Harts are building the home. She said she learned of the cost of the proposed work in February this year. She appealed to the PUCO with a formal complaint in June. She said she signed the contract with AES Ohio in July.

Hart asked how one company can quote a job at nearly $30,000 while another offers the same service at $2,500.

“I had spent five months fighting it, had gotten nowhere and was back where I started,” Hart said. “Legally, no one was obligated to do anything for me, and I’m still going to continue fighting it.

“But the choice was between having power in my home and not having power in my home,” Hart added.

She said she did not know how long construction might take, another reason to sign the contract, as she described the choices before her.

“I don’t live a mile off the road,” Hart said. “Why are they able to charge me that much money?”

A spokeswoman for the PUCO said the cost of extending electric service in rural areas depends on factors such as a home’s distance from roads, underground and above-ground infrastructure requirements, existing lines and more.

“It hard to say whether an estimate like that is usual or unusual,” said the spokeswoman, Brittany Waugaman.

The amount tied to the work surprised at least one observer.

“That is very unusual,” said Billie Duncan-Hart, the 2022 president of the Dayton Realtors trade organization of real estate brokers. “I have not seen that in my 30 years in the business.”

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