Columbus, Ohio (Vocus) May 1, 2009
In a continuing effort focused on electric service reliability in Ohio, consumer advocates today asked that a workshop be held on service provided by Ohio's investor-owned electric utilities. Holding a workshop is among the actions the PUCO can take to examine specific topics, including requirements stated in Ohio's new electric law.
The Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and other advocates asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) for a workshop to address service reliability. At issue is the reliability of service provided by American Electric Power, Dayton Power & Light, Duke Energy and FirstEnergy.
"A workshop - including the active participation of utilities - is needed to determine if enough has been done to maintain wires and other critical elements of the utilities' distribution systems," said Consumers' Counsel Janine Migden-Ostrander. "From momentary outages during good weather to long-term outages following windstorms, consumers are concerned that not enough has been done to ensure reliable service. Consumers deserve a discussion of the utilities' performance and the current state of their facilities and equipment."
The OCC was joined in today's request by the Northwest Ohio Aggregation Coalition, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, Ohio Farmers Union and Pro Seniors, Inc.
The request proposes that the most benefit can be achieved if the utilities initially respond to a number of inquiries to establish a baseline of information and a common understanding of reliability issues and terminology. The OCC and its allies proposed a variety of initial questions as part of today's request.
State law requires that reliable service be provided by all of Ohio's state-regulated electric utilities. Over the last several years, the adequacy of the maintenance of electric distribution lines has been questioned by consumer groups, including the OCC.
In December 2008, Consumers for Reliable Electricity in Ohio - a consortium of consumer groups including several organizations that initiated today's request - called for the PUCO to investigate the reliability of the electric utilities. The PUCO has not yet responded to the request.
This is not the first time the OCC has asked for the PUCO to focus on the state's electric reliability. In January 2004, the OCC asked the PUCO to conduct a statewide electric reliability investigation. The OCC asked electric utilities to provide tree trimming reports that define their practices, outline future plans and disclose current and future spending. Later that month, the PUCO rejected the OCC's request.
In January 2005, the OCC asked the PUCO to conduct a comprehensive AEP-specific reliability investigation based on the breadth and depth of power outages following two winter storms. The PUCO did not act on the request.
Ohio's new electric law - Senate Bill 221 - contains many reliability-related provisions that have not been explored extensively. For example, a provision requires the PUCO to "examine the reliability of the electric distribution utility's" system and requires placing "sufficient emphasis on and dedicating sufficient resource to the reliability of [a utility's] distribution system." Also, Senate Bill 221 calls for the "development of performance standards and targets for service quality for all consumers, including annual achievement reports written in plain language."
The OCC believes addressing these matters in a workshop format will make an important contribution to the effective implementation Ohio's electric law.
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 Web site at http://www.pickocc.org.