AEP / Energy / FirstEnergy

Fight over AEP electric bills hits Ohio airwaves

COLUMBUS — “In a year notable for its barrage of presidential TV ads, a pair of Ohio utilities unaccustomed to high-profile spats is also taking to the airwaves in a dispute over future electric bills.

The rivalry involves Columbus-based American Electric Power’s request to raise rates as it recovers costs associated with switching to a deregulated market.

The utility company says the increases are necessary to cover contract obligations and protect its workforce, but competitors, led by Akron-based FirstEnergy, say the added charges will make it impossible to compete in AEP territory.

The often impermeable world of utility regulation has been translated for the airwaves into an ugly schoolyard squabble.

…Sandy Buchanan, executive director of Ohio Citizen Action, a watchdog group specializing in energy issues, said FirstEnergy did not raise rates — but did tack surcharges to cover its nuclear plants onto electric bills for years.

‘The way I read this is that AEP is saying, ‘Hey, wait a minute. FirstEnergy got this bailout, how come we can’t get a bailout now that we’ve decided to enter this retail market?” Buchanan said. ‘I mean, it wasn’t fair that FirstEnergy got a bailout, so is it now fair for AEP to get one? All of that is bad for consumers.’

— Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press

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