Potomac Edison's request to increase its rate by 12% draws fire before PSC

August 17, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Sun Staff Writer

FREDERICK -- Potomac Edison rate increases are exceeding the rate of inflation, causing frustration among customers on fixed incomes, state Public Service Commission representatives were told last night.

"I feel kind of helpless," William Noonan of Frederick County said at a hearing on the utility's request for a 12 percent rate increase.

Potomac Edison serves 187,000 Maryland customers -- 163,276 of them residential.

About 9,400 Potomac Edison customers are in Carroll County.

If the rate request is approved, the cost to an average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month would rise by $8.63 a month.

"I don't have a choice in electric companies, and I don't get that much of an increase in salary," Mr. Noonan said. "I'm going to go broke real quick."

If approved, the request -- filed in April -- would garner $30 million for the electrical company. It would incorporate a 98-cent surcharge that Potomac Edison requested in March to comply with the federal Clean Air Act, said Assistant People's Counsel Christopher R. Cook.

The assistant people's counsel is a state agency designed to represent the interests of residential customers in rate cases.

"The residential increase is higher than in the past," Mr. Cook said, noting that company officials have said they are concerned about losing industrial customers.

The request's average increase amounts to 13.29 percent, Mr. Cook said, if the minimal increase to Potomac Edison's largest customer, Eastalco, is not included.

Residential customers would see a 15.86 percent increase in their bills. For commercial class users, the increase would be 8.13, for small industrial users, 12.10 percent; and for large industrial users, 9.59 percent.

"Only the residential customers are above the average," Mr. Cook said.

The utility argues that residential customers are not paying what it costs to serve them, because they are the biggest users during the company's peak periods of early morning and evening, Mr. Cook said.

But he said that Potomac Edison is unwilling to give incentives to reduce consumption during peak times -- such as those offered by BGE -- saying it doesn't have distinct peak periods of usage.

Commission members are also expected to hear arguments from attorneys for both sides at 10 a.m. Monday and Aug. 30, Aug. 31, Sept. 1 and Sept. 22 in their offices at St. Paul Center in Baltimore.

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