Consumers’ counsel asks Supreme Court to force action in AES Ohio rate case

Complaint is directed at members of PUCO; AES Ohio is not a respondent

The Ohio Consumers Counsel asked the Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday to direct state regulators to issue a final appealable order in a case involving AES Ohio charges, arguing that AES Ohio customers are being deprived of potentially lower electric rates.

The PUCO or Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has been “withholding” a ruling in an AES Ohio case since Feb. 14, 2020, a final order requested by the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the counsel’s office said in a writ filed with the Supreme Court.

“For OCC and the 465,000 Dayton-area consumers it represents, the PUCO’s delay has been wrong and harmful for consumers in this case,” the office said.

In 15 months since Feb. 15, 2020, AES Ohio has charged its customers about $91 million for what the OCC alleges is an unlawful charge.

“The PUCO is thereby denying consumers their lawful right to an appeal of utility charges. And that results in a potential travesty of justice where DP&L continues to collect a charge from consumers that, even if overturned on appeal, may not be subject to refund under court precedent,” the OCC said.

DP&L earlier this year rebranded as AES Ohio, but still operates legally under the earlier name.

A writ is a relatively rare legal filing, comparable to a complaint or a request of a government body to take action, filed with a court. The action names members of the PUCO as respondents. Although the case involves AES Ohio charges, the utility is not a respondent in the complaint.

The history of the case is a long one. OCC contends the PUCO has not moved on a case involving what the OCC says was DP&L’s “switching out” of one “unlawful subsidy for another” — a distribution modernization rider (or charge) for a rate stabilization charge.

The consumers’ office, in seeking resolution, argued that: “This is the second time in four years that the PUCO has permitted DP&L to withdraw from its electric security plan in response to a ruling protecting customers from paying for an unlawful charge (the so-called ‘distribution modernization rider.’) And like the last time, DP&L used Ohio law to deprive customers of the full rate reduction they should have received [by implementing the rate stabilization charge].”

“The PUCO is preventing OCC from appealing a PUCO decision to this court, which is preventing justice for Dayton-area consumers,” the OCC said. “Meanwhile, DP&L continues collecting from consumers a charge we assert is unlawful.”

A PUCO spokesman said he expects the commission will respond via a filing to the court within the 21 day procedural deadline.

A message seeking comment was sent to a representative of AES Ohio.

AES Ohio serves more than 527,000 customer accounts, representing 1.25 million people in West Central Ohio. Its service area covers 24 counties within 6,000 square miles.

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