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Met-Ed seeks 18 percent hike in electricity bills

By: Anthony Salamone |

State regulators have scheduled public hearings next month on a request by Met-Ed to raise $152 million by hiking customers’ electricity bills nearly 18 percent.

The hearings are scheduled for 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Nov. 17 at East Stroudsburg University’s Innovation Center Room 336, and 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Inn at Reading, 1040 N. Park Road, Reading.

Met-Ed, which filed for the rate hike in August with the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, says it needs the additional revenue to cover its operational costs. For a residential customer who consumes 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month, the bill would climb 17.8 percent, from about $117 to $137.

The company serves about 80,000 customers in Lehigh and Northampton counties.

Met-Ed has not had an increase in that component of the bill in 22 years, spokesman Scott Surgeoner said Tuesday. It sought a $216 million rate hike in 2006 and wound up with a $59 million jump the next year, he said, but that amount covered transmission costs.

An electric utility’s transmission and generation costs are pass-through amounts paid to other providers; utilities make no profit on those bill components.

“The distribution rate is that cost that we control,” said Surgeoner, noting the money covers workers’ salaries and equipment, including utility poles and lines.

“All we’re really trying to do is bring our revenue more in line with expenses,” Surgeoner said.

The PUC voted earlier this month to suspend the rate hike for investigation and announced the hearings on Friday. The commission must decide on Met-Ed’s request by May 3.

Bills for Met-Ed business and industrial customers also would rise under Met-Ed’s proposal. An average commercial customer’s bill would jump 7.2 percent, while an industrial user’s bill would rise 2.1 percent, according to utility information.

The different hikes by percentages among its customer classes are because larger energy consumers no longer subsidize residential customers’ rates since electric deregulation in the 1990s, Surgeoner said.

Met-Ed, which serves 15 counties, including Northampton, Lehigh, Monroe and Bucks, is a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., based in Akron, Ohio.

Its rate hike request is part of combined $416 million in proposed distribution rate increases being sought by Met-Ed and its corporate brethren in the state: Pennsylvania Power Co., West Penn Power Co. and Pennsylvania Electric Co.

Combined, the four utilities cover most of the state.