Athens Business Owners React To PUCO Rate Rejection

By
WOUB Staff Writer

Dateline
Updated Thu, Feb 23, 2012 5:03 pm

Businesses in Ohio can expect to receive lower energy bills now that public utility regulators have rejected electric rate increases. 

The decision by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio today followed weeks of criticism of the increases, which many small businesses criticized as burdensome. 
 
When Michael Fitterer, the manager of the College Book Store in Athens, heard that American Electric Power had plans to increase its rates in January, he took action to try to save money. 
 
"About a year ago, we signed up with First Energy to buy electricity from them which splits our bill. Half comes from AEP for transmission, then we buy electrical from First Energy. That softened the impact," said Fitterer. 
 
The partial switch to First energy led to lower electricity costs for the store, but the transmission costs charged by AEP went up. 
 
Local coffee shops like Brennen's and Donkey also noticed that their AEP energy bills had gone up. 
 
The owner of Donkey Coffee says the amount of money he has to pay to American Electric Power has tripled. But other businesses have switched to different companies, and are now paying less for their energy bills.
 
One of these businesses is Court Street Coffee. 
 
Since owner Debby Fulks signed up with a different energy company, her electric bills dropped tremendously. 
 
"That was several hundred dollars that they reduced my bill, which made me very angry in one way that I was overpaying all of that. How could they do that and I'm getting the same electric? Why was I paying so much money previously to AEP?" said Fulks. 
 
Many business owners in Ohio shared that feeling. 
 
The Public Utilities Commission received hundreds of complaints from businesses about the $300 million increase.           
 
That is why today, the commission ordered AEP to return its rates to the lower, original levels. 
 
These rates will remain in place until a new rate plan is adopted. 
 
American Electric Power expressed its disappointment with the order. 
 
But local business owners can expect lower bills in the near future. 
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