HARRISBURG — Electric rates for PECO Energy Co. customers will be going up on Jan.1, but not as much as originally requested by the utility.
In a 5-0 vote Thursday, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) approved a partial settlement involving PECO Energy Co. (PECO) and various other parties.
The ruling substantially reduces the rate increase requested earlier this year by the utility. It also requires the utility to return federal tax savings to customers.
In its ruling Thursday, the commission voted to approve a net revenue increase of $24.9 million for PECO, compared to an $81.9 million increase the utility requested in its initial filing with the PUC in March. The settlement figure represents an estimated 70 percent reduction in the rate increase that had been sought.
Under the settlement, the average monthly bill for a residential customer using 700 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month would increase from $102.65 to $103.92 — or 1.2 percent — effective Jan. 1, 2019.
Additionally, the settlement requires PECO to refund $68 million in savings that resulted from the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Residential customers will receive a one-time bill credit in January 2019, while refunds to larger commercial and industrial customers will be spread over a one-year period.
The refund was proposed in PECO’s original rate case filing, according to PECO spokeswoman Afia Ohene-Frempong.
“We knew we were going to do it, it was just a matter of how would we do it — and now the mechanism is in place for a one-time credit,” she said.
The refund will offset the rate increase for a typical customer in 2019, according to Ohene-Frempong who said a typical customer will see a $35 credit in January, then about a $1 per month rate increase.
PECO customers will receive a detailed bill insert in their January bills outlining the rate changes and one-time credit, according to Ohene-Frempong. In addition, those who have signed up for email service will receive a detailed email from PECO.
The settlement approved Thursday also includes a pilot project intended to encourage the installation of fast charging stations for electric vehicles and to gather data to investigate future rates for direct current fast charger systems. It is a program highlighted by PUC Chairwoman Gladys M. Brown as an important step to stimulating the electric vehicle market, according to a PUC press release.
“I commend PECO for bringing forth a proposal to stimulate the electric vehicle market in its service territory and further commend the parties in this proceeding for their support and work in crafting PECO’s pilot proposal,” Brown said Thursday.
The pilot program, according to Ohene-Frempong, is designed to support the growth of electric vehicle infrastructure. Fast charging stations, she said, “are expensive to build in to systems.” The pilot program has a new rate for any eligible customers that would like to install chargers.
ChargePoint Inc., which operates an open electric vehicle charging network and designs, builds and supports the technology for the network, issued a statement in support of the decision following Thursday’s announcement.
“PECO’s innovative proposal will support their customers as they seek to make it easier to drive and ride electric by installing faster EV charging stations,” Kevin G. Miller, director of public policy at ChargePoint said in the statement. “ChargePoint believes that utilities play a critical role in the transition to electric transportation. And we are excited to collaborate with all stakeholders to accelerate EV charging across Pennsylvania.”
Thursday’s action by the commission also addressed issues raised by NRG Energy related to default service costs and methods used by PECO to calculate their price-to-compare (used by consumers shopping for competitive energy suppliers).
The joint petition for settlement in the rate case was filed Aug. 28 by PECO, the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement, the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate, the Office of Small Business Advocate, the Philadelphia Area Industrial Energy Users Group, the Coalition for Affordable Utility Services and Energy Efficiency in Pennsylvania, the Tenant Union Representative Network and Action Alliance of Senior Citizens of Greater Philadelphia, the Community Action Association of Pennsylvania, Tesla Inc., ChargePoint Inc., Walmart Stores East LP and Sam’s East Inc.
Headquartered in Philadelphia, PECO provides electric service to more than 1.6 million within Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties.