Kentucky Power customers asked to comment on proposed rate increase
Kentucky Power customers in Lawrence County have the opportunity to comment on the company’s latest plan to increase electricity bills.
The investor-owned utility company has asked the Public Service Commission to approve a 25 percent increase in both its basic service charge (what one pays even if no electricity is used) and its per kilowatt hour charge for electricity actually used.
“It’s not hard to figure out what a rate increase could do to somebody who is already on a fixed income,” said Amber Bailey, a mother of three and Kentucky Power customer who says it’s already a challenge to get her bills paid. “People who rely on Social Security or disability, they get that check, and that’s it. People have no room for changing budgets. Minimum wage is still $7.25.”
Residential bills are split up into a fixed, monthly charge, and a “per kilowatt hour” energy charge. Kentucky Power proposes increasing both. The monthly charge would go up to $17.50/month, a 25 percent increase above its current $14 (before taxes and fees). And the energy charge would go up above 12 cents/kWh, also a 25 percent increase.
Neither of these rate increases are warranted in the middle of a pandemic and ongoing economic crisis, said Tom Vierheller, also a Kentucky Power customer.
“Utility companies currently have record low financing rates, record low fuel costs and record high executive compensation,” Vierheller pointed out. “Many families in eastern Kentucky were past the financial breaking point before COVID19. This is not the time to impose rate increases that will terribly affect homes of low income families with children and seniors.”
If allowed, this would be Kentucky Power’s third rate increase in five years.
“It wasn’t even two years ago that Kentucky Power asked for a rate increase, and was granted it. So I’m wondering why they’re even entertaining this in the middle of COVID,” Bailey added. “We all know how many people have filed for unemployment since COVID started. We were already hard hit before the pandemic, as far as jobs.”
Kentucky Power provides electricity to more than 7,700 customers in Lawrence County, according to the company’s website.
The company’s plans would harm opportunities for residents in eastern Kentucky to benefit from the growing number of solar energy jobs, and take away incentives to conserve energy.
This rate case will mark the PSC’s first decision on changes to the net metering rate – the credit rooftop solar customers receive for power fed into the electric grid – since the net metering law was changed in 2019. As the first rate case following the new law, this could set a precedent for other utility rate cases across the state.
Utilities want to sharply reduce the value of solar power for Kentuckians who want to add rooftop solar panels in the future. It would place solar customers into a complicated time-of-use rate structure and would greatly undervalue electricity fed back to the utility and ultimately to other customers.
Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, the Kentucky Solar Energy Society and the Mountain Association have intervened in the case on behalf of residential customers in eastern Kentucky. They ask anyone concerned about the rate increase and devaluing of solar energy to write to the Public Service Commission with their concerns.
“Kentucky Power has some of the highest rates in the state to begin with … and they have raised their rates twice since 2016,” according to Andy McDonald with the Kentucky Solar Energy Society. “Both the size of the increase and the way they want to go about doing it are harmful to their customers.”
Comments may be sent via email with “Case number 2020-00174” as the subject line, to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Provide your full name and place of residence in the body of the email.
Comments also can be mailed to the Public Service Commission, PO Box 615, Frankfort, Kentucky 40602-0615. Public comments should be sent by the hearing scheduled for November 17.
Three virtual public comment hearings will be held on November 13 (1-4 p.m. and 5-8 p.m.) and November 16 (6-9 p.m.).
To sign up, email email@example.com with subject line “Case 2020-00174 Agenda” and ask to be placed on the speaker list, and specify which hearing. Include name, address and phone number. The PSC will confirm one’s place and send information on how to join the hearing signed up for.
More information and helpful talking points can be found at: kftc.org/kentuckypower2020.
Case documents may be found at: psc.ky.gov/PSC_WebNet/ViewCaseFilings.aspx?case=2020-00174
Kentucky Power is a subsidiary of American Electric Power, one of the largest utilities in the nation. It owns or operates about 60 generating stations and 40,000 miles of transmission lines, with capacity to supply 26 million customers in 11 states with power.
Kentucky Power serves about 165,000 customers in 20 eastern Kentucky counties.
P.O. Box 864