COLUMBUS, Ohio (WSYX) — The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio held a hearing to help its commissioners decide whether to approve AEP Ohio's proposal that would lead to a rate hike.
"It’s not fair," said Christine Hamiter. "When will it stop? When do you start thinking about the community?"
This June, another rate increase goes into effect for AEP Ohio customers. To put it into perspective, according to AEP, if you bill is about $155 per month right now, you could be paying about $198 a month starting next month.
"Where do we get a break," asked Hamiter. "How do we survive? Why do we have to keep on struggling to make ends meet?"
AEP's newest proposal that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio is considering would increase bills during a six-year period, starting in 2024.
"I am not being dramatic when I say that this rate hike keeps me up at night because I’ve been barely able to make it each month," Kat Finneran said.
On July 10, an evidentiary hearing will start, then the PUCO commissioners will make their decision sometime in the fall or winter before 2024.
"I urge you commissioners to consider the impacts of your decisions on struggling families," said Rebecca Pollard. "Consider what it’s like to be a single parent coming home to find your lights are out and you must search for your electric bill by flashlight in order to find your account number so you can get the power back on."
According to AEP Ohio, if the proposal is approved, the money will go toward fixing and replacing aging equipment, trimming trees away from powerlines, and energy-saving problems.
"The CEO of AEP made over 16 million dollars in 2022," said Isaiah Back-Gaal. "I think the company could definitely spare a few dollars to provide good energy for the people whether than putting that on the poorest consumers."
AEP Ohio reports profiting 2.6 billion dollars in 2022, which was another point made by customers during the hearing.
"I want to know how corporate officials at AEP manage to sleep at night knowing that mothers in poverty spend their Saturdays begging charities for utilities money," Finneran said.
"It’s not right, and we need PUCO to use their power to stop and say no more rate increases," said Morgan Harper, Co-founder of Columbus Stand Up. "You don’t have to look very far around Columbus to know that people are hurting."
AEP Ohio employees at Tuesday's hearing would not agree to an interview.
The company provided the following statement.
"The rate making and regulatory process is transparent and examines all aspects of our business. We are continually focused on making our operations more efficient and on controlling costs. We are investing billions of dollars in Ohio in order to make the electric grid more reliable and resilient and to support growth in the state. We encourage any customer who is struggling to pay their bill to contact us. We are able to connect them with payment options and potential assistance programs.
Executive compensation is set by the AEP Board and recognizes the size and complexity of our operations. It is reviewed annually by the Board and is designed to attract and retain industry experts and proven leaders, while allowing us to remain competitive with peer companies who also pursue the same top talent.
AEP and the AEP Foundation contribute $23 million last year in Ohio to support local communities."
If you want to save energy and decrease your bill, AEP Ohio recommends increasing your thermostat by five degrees during the summer, covering your windows during the day with shades, using a ceiling fan that rotates counterclockwise, and avoiding the use of appliances that produce heat when it's hottest outside.