The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) agreed to investigate three rate requests from utilities owned by C&T Enterprises at the request of the Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA).
The OCA asked the PUC to determine if the rate increases requested by Wellsboro Electric Company, Valley Energy Inc. and Citizens’ Electric Company of Lewisburg were “unjust, unreasonable, in violation of the law or will produce an excessive return on investment.”
The companies said the rate increases were needed to “continue capital investments in system improvements, current maintenance and replacement policies, and to enhance each utility’s ability to obtain capital to fund major system improvement projects that may be necessary in the future,” according to a summary provided by the PUC.
The commission agreed by a vote of 5-0 to investigate and placed a hold on the rate increase requests until March 2020. The utilities initially requested the changes take effect Aug. 30.
A breakdown on the customer impact of the initial proposed requests outlined in the OCA complaints are as follows:
• Valley Energy’s requested change would have increased the customer’s monthly charge from $10.50 to $12.79, an increase of 21.8 percent. The monthly charge is a standard amount included on all bills. Customers who use 71 Ccf of natural gas each month would see a 14.45 percent increase from $49.75 to $56.94. Valley Energy provides gas services to 6,870 customers in Bradford County. If the rate increase is approved, Valley Energy would receive an 8.32 percent return on the rate base.
• Citizen’s Electric asked for a 33.5 percent increase to the residential monthly customer’s charge from $11.24 to $15. Customers who use 1,250 kW per month would have seen an 8.1 percent increase from $119.51 to $129.20 on their bill. Citizen’s Electric has 7,043 customers in the Lewisburg area. The company will receive an 8.05 percent return on the rate base if the PUC approves all of the requests from Citizen’s Electric.
• Wellsboro Electric Company requested a 24.18 percent change in the residential monthly charge from $10.79 to $13.40 a month, a 24.18 percent increase. Customers who use about 700 kW a month would have seen an 11.4 percent increase from $91.71 to $102.33. Wellsboro Electric provides services to rural Wellsboro and areas in Tioga County. The company would receive a 6.15 percent return on rate base if their request is approved, according to the OCA.
The investigation is handled by the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge, who will hold formal hearings, according to information from the PUC. The OCA has requested the PUC consolidate the three rate increase requests.
The hearings are open to the public and consumers can speak or file their own complaints. The OCA will also be present and represent the citizens at the hearings. The investigation into a rate increase can take up to nine months.
No hearing dates have been announced.