By: Philly Voice |

PECO is seeking to raise electric rates to help cover $3 billion worth of infrastructure improvements that the utility says are needed to strengthen the energy grid.

If approved, the average customer’s monthly bill would increase by $9.68, or 9.65%, beginning in January. The average small business would see its monthly bill increase by $44.74, or 5.49%, .

The $246 million rate increase would pay for upgrades to the electric grid and the advancement of clean technologies, PECO said in a filing submitted Tuesday to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

The proposed increase is about 10 times higher than PECO’s most recent rate increase, a $24.9 million hike that took effect in January 2019. Back then, PECO had sought an $81.9 million increase.

PECO CEO Mike Innocenzo acknowledged that increased bills may not be welcomed by the many customers whose finances have been adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. But he said an increase is necessary for PECO to maintain reliable service.

“We recognize that the effects from COVID-19 are far from over and that the pandemic continues to impact customers who are struggling financially,” Innocenzo said. “However, we’ve seen just how critical it is to have uninterrupted electric service during this challenging time.”

If approved, the increase would provide $2.7 million in bill relief to residential customers who have received federal COVID-19 relief grants or are living with a household member who became unemployed amid the pandemic.

Another $1 million would be put toward relief for small businesses that are “located in low-income communities that have demonstrated a financial hardship caused by the pandemic,” PECO said.

The increase also would be used to expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure by providing $1.5 million in incentives for commercial, industrial and public transit customers. The incentives program would be aimed at reducing emissions in disadvantaged communities, PECO said.

“As we remain committed to delivering safe and reliable energy service for our customers across Southeastern Pennsylvania, this filing serves as an investment to enhance the resiliency and reliability of our electric service,” Innocenzo said.

PECO, founded in 1881, serves 1.6 million electric customers and 532,000 gas customers in the Philadelphia region. It is the largest electric and gas utility in Pennsylvania.