A 67-year-old retired nurse wrote the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on April 15 in opposition to a $7-per-month rate increase to her electric bill proposed by Oklahoma Gas & Electric.
“I struggle to live from one payday until the next month,” wrote the daughter of a former Johnston County sheriff. “Reducing my access to air conditioning is not an option. Older people cannot survive the heat without A/C.
“If you raise the cost of my energy use, you will (…) negatively affect the quality of what time I have left to live.”
Commissioners will begin the required public hearing for the OG&E proposal at some point today. The OCC is set to start its meeting this morning beginning at 10 a.m. in Courtroom 301 of the Jim Thorpe Building, 2701 N. Lincoln Blvd.
The meeting could last multiple days, depending upon how many customers attend to voice their opinions on an OG&E proposal that would yield the company an additional $92.5 million in revenue annually.
Plenty of public comment
In late March, the company sent letters and emails to customers alerting them of the public comment period. Prior to today’s hearing, Oklahomans submitted more than 90 pages in documents voicing their opposition to OG&E’s proposal in writing:
On April 22, the Sierra Club issued its own special notice that it will host a rally against OG&E’s proposal, which has been modified to include discussion about a proposed tariff on solar and wind users. That rally is scheduled to begin at noon today outside the Jim Thorpe Building.
In addition to customers and the Sierra Club, other opponents of OG&E’s current plans include AARP Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, and The Alliance for Solar Choice, according to The Muskogee Phoenix.
Details about the rate hike
According to an OG&E email from March 29 titled “Special Notice to Oklahoma Customers,” the company seeks to increase the average residential user’s monthly bill by 4.9 percent, which equals about $7.22 per month. The email states that the rate increase seeks “to recover increased business costs and electric infrastructure investments the Company has made since 2012.”
Also, “general service” customers (commercial users) and industrial users in the power-and-light category would face potential 12.6 percent and 5.4 percent increases, respectively. Meanwhile, large-power-and-light customers could see a decrease of 1.6 percent.
The Oklahoman’s Paul Monies wrote over the weekend that “OG&E said lower natural gas prices already passed along to customers will mean the net effect of the rate increase on bills will be about 47 cents per month for the typical residential customer.”
If approved, customers’ monthly service charges would be doubled and a new charge labeled “demand” would be put in place. The increased rates would take effect in June and constitute OG&E’s first approved rate hike since 2010. In addition, it would mark the first change to the company’s billing structure in two decades.
In parent company OGE’s 2015 annual report, motivations for filing the rate case with OCC include the recovery of “$1.6 billion of electric infrastructure additions since its last general rate case in Oklahoma, the impact of the expiration of OG&E’s wholesale contracts and increased operating costs such as vegetation management.”
Third time’s a charm
In an unrelated hearing between the OCC and OG&E last Thursday, commissioners unanimously approved the utility company’s third request to install dry-scrubbing equipment designed to ensure environmental compliance at the Sooner coal-fired facility near Red Rock, Okla.
If regulators had denied OG&E’s third request for implementing the scrubbing plan, the company had stated plans to convert the Sooner plant to a natural gas-fired facility.
Overall, total OGE Energy Corp revenue has decreased at an annualized rate of 12.1 percent during the four years prior to 2015. Operating income has also fallen 8.2 percent despite an annualized 13.0 percent decrease in expenses during the same period.