2 more boosts in electricity rates could be near

January 16, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Customers of Potomac Edison Co., about 9,000 of whom live in western Carroll County, recently received an increase in their electrical rates. If the Maryland Public Service Commission agrees, two more increases will take effect, in February and April.

The latest requests would raise the average residential customer's monthly bill for 1,000 kilowatt hours by $1.03, to $69.73, said Cyndi Shoop, Potomac Edison spokeswoman.

All requested increases would be to the company's fuel rate, a separate fee charged customers to help pay for running generators, most of which use coal, she said.

"The fuel rate increase is primarily because, in the past, our customers had benefited by sales of electricity to other utilities," Ms. Shoop said. "Because of a decline in sales, what was normally a direct benefit to customers is no longer there. We need to true up that situation."

Potomac Edison's sales to other utilities fell because those utilities built their own generators or are buying from other companies, she said. Potomac Edison also reduced its sales to other utilities during the recent coal strike.

"We curtailed sales to save the coal for our own customers, if that became necessary," Ms. Shoop said.

Under Maryland Public Service Commission regulations, utility companies are allowed to adjust their fuel rates to match costs. If fuel costs are as much as 5 percent below the company's fee, it must request a decrease from the commission.

Company officials requested the first increase -- which raised the average monthly bill by $1.46, to the current $68.70 -- in September. The subsequent two-part request was filed with the commission Jan. 5, Ms. Shoop said.

Officials requested the first half of the new increase, which would raise the average residential bill to $69.47, to cover money lost through the declining sales of electricity to other utility companies.

That increase, which would take effect Feb. 4, would raise $5.7 million, Ms. Shoop said.

The second increase would be a temporary, 24-month surcharge to cover a deficit in fuel costs that Potomac Edison has carried since December 1992, Ms. Shoop said.

Potomac Edison would raise $3.2 million with that request, which would raise the average bill to $69.73, she said. Company officials would like the increase to take effect April 7.

The two requests would raise residential customer bills a total of 1.5 percent, Ms. Shoop said.

Commercial customers' bills will rise 1.1 percent to 1.6 percent, she said. In general, commercial customers who use more electricity pay lower rates.

By comparison, Baltimore Gas and Electric residential customers pay an average of $89.85 a month for 1,000 kilowatt hours of

electricity, said public information representative John Metzger.

The PSC has 150 days from the filing date to rule on the latest Potomac Edison request. The utility, part of the Allegheny Power System, has more than 187,000 customers in seven Maryland counties.

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