PUCO and Duke Energy would both be satisfied with a $22.6 million increase in the utility provider’s yearly Ohio revenue

Columbus, Ohio – Clearly, this non-binding agreement is a compromise that demonstrates both PUCO’s technical team and Duke Energy’s own satisfaction with a $22.6 million increase in the power provider’s annual Ohio income.

Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy; Ohio Energy Group; People Working Cooperatively, Inc.; Retail Energy Suppliers Association; Walmart Stores East & Sam’s East; One Energy Enterprises; Nationwide Energy Partners; and Citizens Utility Board of Ohio are also signatories supporting the pact.

However, the agreement has not been signed by other intervenors.

The Ohio Consumers’ Council [OCC] has not signed on. Matt Schilling, a PUCO spokesman, stated that the city of Cincinnati had also not signed the agreement.

The Journal-News earlier stated that the OCC had formally recommended that PUCO “allow a rate drop (rather than an increase) of at least $1.4 million for Duke’s customers.”

Merrilee Embs, a spokesperson for the OCC, recently defined the agency as the “official state advocate for Ohio utility consumers” and restated the agency’s stance that now is not a good time to raise rates.

“The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, the state’s advocate for residential utility customers, did not find the resolution acceptable for Duke’s home electric customers,” Embs wrote in a statement. With rising energy costs, inflation, and persistent pandemic issues, now is not the time to increase Ohioans’ electric bills.

Schilling stated that the absence of the OCC from the signature list is particularly significant and casts doubt on what the eventual decision of the five PUCO regulatory commissioners may be.

Notably, this agreement and any stipulation agreement are non-binding and somewhat extracurricular, but it is a regular and crucial stage in the lengthy process of an Ohio utility provider obtaining formal approval of a rate hike. Schilling referred to it as an additional commission “recommendation.”

Schilling stated that the evidentiary hearing must still occur, but the stipulation agreement speeds up the process and provides the commissioners with a more solid starting point than they would have had without the agreement.

“Those who oppose this settlement still have their day in court and the opportunity to present their case,” Schilling added. And, they may convince the commission.

It also affects the emphasis of the hearing, according to Schilling. Instead of needing to reach a compromise between $55 million and $15 million, the commission can now hear from opposing parties such as the OCC and assess if the stipulation agreement is equitable.

“Without a settlement, you’re basically battling against the company’s application, but in this case, they’ve reached an arrangement with a number of stakeholders,” Schilling explained. It is not everything the utility requested, nor is it as low as the PUCO staff report submitted earlier this summer.

The evidentiary hearing will be held at the PUCO’s Columbus office on October 3 at 10 a.m. and will be open to the public.

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