PUCO gets one speaker on proposed AES Ohio rate increase

A sparsely attended local Public Utilities Commission of Ohio hearing on a proposed increase in AES Ohio distribution rates Friday drew just one speaker.

A second hearing is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Dayton Municipal Building, city commission chambers, 101 W. Third St.

That will be the public’s next chance to weigh in on AES Ohio’s application to raise electric rates.

PUCO staff have already recommended reducing the annual revenue requested by AES Ohio — the former Dayton Power & Light — by nearly half, from $120,771,561 to a range between $61,115,418 to $66,665,151.

If PUCO passes what its staff has recommended, an AES Ohio customer using 750 kilowatt-hours a month would see a 5.47% increase in his or her bill.

The increase first sought by AES Ohio last November would have amounted to a 14.3% increase.

One kilowatt-hour is enough to watch TV for 10 hours or run a vacuum cleaner for an hour.

Chris Kershner, president and chief executive of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, asked visiting PUCO members “to fully consider” AES Ohio’s proposed increase.

“When it comes to utility service to our business community, there are two things that must be paramount at all times: Reliable and efficient service and corporate economic health,” Kershner said. “Businesses need certainty and reliability to operate, plan and make future investments in their companies. I’m proud to say that AES Ohio has always been on the forefront of these objectives.”

But he added that as operating costs increase, “that can position a company like AES Ohio to be forced to do more with less, and potentially be forced to sacrifice key characteristics of these objectives in the future. That shouldn’t be acceptable for our business community; that shouldn’t be acceptable for AES Ohio or our state regulators.”

He told commission members AES Ohio has the lowest rates “of any electric utility in the state of Ohio.”

Though the commission recessed for some 20 minutes, no other speakers came forward in the meeting at Dayton’s city hall.

The Office of the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel this summer filed to dismiss the utility’s application to raise those rates.

The office argues that AES Ohio is prohibited from increasing base rates because it agreed to freeze base distribution rates in a 2009 PUCO-approved settlement.

“Our consumer proposal to the PUCO is that AES should not be allowed to increase electric rates even a penny,” said a spokeswoman for the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel’s office, Merrilee Embs. “That’s because AES previously committed to a rate freeze. Regarding today’s local hearing, it would be good for the PUCO to offer Dayton consumers the opportunity to testify virtually during the pandemic.”

The PUCO’s evidentiary hearing on the matter will begin at 10 a.m. Oct. 26, at PUCO offices, hearing room 11-A, 11th floor, 180 E. Broad St., Columbus.

But don’t go to Columbus for that hearing. The hearing will begin there before immediately going to recess for some 90 minutes, then resuming for a video meeting. A PUCO attorney said details about watching that meeting or listening to it on the phone will be published later.

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