Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel

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Contact: Marty Berkowitz (614) 387-2962

berkowitz@occ.state.oh.us

 

Settlements reduce potential increases to Duke electric, natural gas customers

COLUMBUS, OH – Apr. 2, 2013 – The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC), Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) staff, Duke Energy Ohio (Duke) and other parties signed two settlements today that will significantly reduce the impact to customers of the utility’s proposed increases to its electric and natural gas distribution rates.

Distribution rates are paid to the utility for the delivery of electricity and natural gas to customers’ homes as well as infrastructure maintenance and replacement and other customer service functions.

OCC’s advocacy, working with others, helped prevent combined higher electric and gas increases for Duke’s 610,000 electric and 380,000 natural gas residential customers. As part of the settlement, Duke’s proposed annual electric distribution rate increase was reduced from $86 million to $49 million. In the natural gas case, Duke’s proposed annual $44 million increase request was reduced to zero, pending the outcome of one major issue that the parties could not agree upon and thus will be litigated.

The parties to the settlement also agreed that the PUCO should not allow city governments to use utility bills to charge residents for costs associated with mass transit projects. If Duke’s original proposal were to be adopted, the utility could charge customers residing in Cincinnati for the city’s costs to relocate and replace its utility lines to accommodate the streetcar project. This proposal could have set a bad precedent for future cases.

“The settlement protects customers by significantly reducing the increases that Duke originally proposed to the PUCO,” said OCC spokesman Marty Berkowitz. “Also, the settlement protects customers by eliminating Duke’s proposal for a way to charge customers in Cincinnati for certain costs related to the streetcar.”

As part of the electric and natural gas settlements, Duke also agreed to:

  • Not charge customers for major storm costs incurred during 2012. Additionally, Duke withdrew its request for a “storm tracker.” This “storm tracker” would have allowed Duke to seek to charge customers for future storm repairs as part of its future electric distribution rates. 
     
  • Revise its proposal to extend its right to use a person’s property to install lines or pipes that would serve other customers. Duke agreed that it will work with property owners and negotiate access and financial compensation to use a customer’s property away from streets and roads for such projects.
     
  • Annually provide $350,000 from Duke’s shareholders for a fuel fund to assist low-income customers with utility bill payments; and an additional $350,000 for a program that helps make low-income customers’ homes more energy efficient.

One matter not covered in the proposed settlement is Duke’s request to charge customers $65 million over a three-year period for costs to clean up two former manufactured gas plant sites. OCC has recommended that the PUCO reject Duke’s request. The PUCO will conduct a hearing and consider evidence from all parties about this issue, starting April 29.

“The PUCO should reject any charges related to the clean-up of manufactured gas plant sites that aren’t necessary to provide natural gas service to Duke’s customers,” Berkowitz said.

For more information about either of these cases and the settlements, visit the official case dockets at: 

Electric distribution rate case number: 12-1682-EL-AIR et al;

Natural gas distribution rate case number: 12-1685-GA-AIR el al.

 

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. For more information, please visit the OCC website at www.pickocc.org.

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