State regulators launch hearing on proposed higher AES Ohio rates



State regulators opened an evidentiary hearing Monday examining a Dayton electric utility’s bid to charge higher rates for power distribution.

An attorney for the Office of Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) cross-examined Robert Adams, a rates manager for electric utility AES Ohio, the hearing’s first witness.

Ambrosia Wilson, an OCC attorney cross examining Adams, asked him if he agrees that the COVID-19 pandemic has created economic hardships for consumers.

“I’m not aware that it has,” Adams said. “I haven’t performed any analysis or any studies, so I can’t speak to that.”

Adams offered a similar answer when another attorney asked him if the pandemic had financially upended businesses.

Wilson directed Adams to an AES Ohio website. “Would it surprise you to find that the company has proposed several methods for relief for consumers,” so that residential consumers will pay less on their electric bill during the pandemic, Wilson asked him.

“I am generally aware that the company is offering relief to residential customers who do fall on hard times,” Adams told her.

The online hearing is slated to continue through Feb. 4, according to a Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) spokesman. It will resume Tuesday.

Kristina Lund, AES Ohio president and chief executive, is on the hearing witness list for the company, but it’s unclear when she’ll be cross-examined.

Monday’s first session concentrated on prefatory matters and hearing details. AES Ohio attorney Jeff Sharkey said the utility may have rebuttal testimony.

“We can definitely take things day by day,” said PUCO attorney examiner Trish Schabo. “I think that’s how things are going to have to go with this hearing.”

The hearing had been rescheduled several times in recent months as AES Ohio negotiated with interested parties on its proposed increase in rates.

Attorneys for the University of Dayton, Walmart, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, Kroger, the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and others watched or took part in at least some of the online hearing Monday.

The increase originally sought by AES Ohio — formerly branded as Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) — would have amounted to a 14.3% increase in customer bills.

However, PUCO staff has recommended reducing the annual revenue requested by the utility by nearly half — from $120.7 million to a range between $61.1 million and $66.6 million.

If the commission passes what PUCO staff has recommended, a customer using 750 kilowatt-hours a month would see a 5.47% increase in their bill. The increase sought by AES Ohio 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.

A PUCO staff report is not final, and commissioners may vote as they see fit.

AES Ohio has said it has the lowest residential rates across Ohio’s investor-owned utilities and among the lowest residential rates in the country.

The company serves more than 527,000 customer accounts, representing 1.25 million people in West Central Ohio.

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