Consumers' Counsel Responds to Undue Delay in Excess Earnings Cases

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Further delays at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) could mean the denial of refunds to customers of one of American Electric Power’s operating companies, Columbus Southern Power, according to the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the residential utility consumer advocate.

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It is likely that based on Ohio law, some American Electric Power customers are due refunds because their utility has significantly excess earnings,” Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander said today. “Justice delayed is justice denied.

Further delays at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) could mean the denial of refunds to customers of one of American Electric Power’s operating companies, Columbus Southern Power, according to the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the residential utility consumer advocate.

“It is likely that based on Ohio law, some American Electric Power customers are due refunds because their utility has significantly excess earnings,” Consumers’ Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander said today. “Justice delayed is justice denied. For every month this proceeding is extended, it is another month customers will not receive a refund. This threatens to undermine the protection from excessive earnings, the key consumer protection included in Ohio’s electric policy law.”

Ohio law contains provisions mandating the measurement of profits earned by the utility and the refund of excess profits to consumers. Investor-owned electric utilities are not subject to a full rate case examination concerning the generation and distribution costs in their electric security plans.

A July 14 decision by the PUCO (case number 09-786-EL-UNC) extended the time for each electric utility to file its Significantly Excess Earnings Test (SEET) applications from July 15 to Sept. 1. Earlier this year, the PUCO allowed a two-month delay. Such delays fail to protect Ohio customers from unreasonable rates for electric service, Migden-Ostrander said. The delay could amount to denying months of refunds likely due to Columbus Southern Power customers. These refunds could be delayed even longer if AEP or other parties in the case apply for rehearing or appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio.

By law, the PUCO must consider annually whether a rate determined under a utility’s electric security plan resulted in excess earnings for the utility. This will be the first proceeding since the law was signed on May 1, 2008. The OCC supports the concept of monitoring excess earnings and holding utilities accountable if customers are overcharged.

About the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel

The Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), the residential utility consumer advocate, represents the interests of 4.5 million households in proceedings before state and federal regulators and in the courts. The state agency also educates consumers about electric, natural gas, telephone and water issues and resolves complaints from individuals. To receive utility information, brochures, schedule a presentation or file a utility complaint, residential consumers may call 1-877-PICKOCC (1-877-742-5622) toll free in Ohio or visit the OCC website at http://www.pickocc.org.

Contact: Ryan Lippe
(614) 466-7269

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