However, instead of punishing the company for its transgressions, the PSC has decided to punish the customers!
The PSC has ordered Potomac Edison and Mon Power to increase meter readings from bi-monthly to monthly no later than July 1, 2015. However, the company's customers will pay for the cost of increasing the frequency of meter reading. FirstEnergy has estimated that monthly reading would increase yearly costs by five million dollars ($5,000,000.00). The PSC has directed the company to recover the increased cost from you by amending its recent request for a 15% rate increase to add the additional costs for monthly meter reading. The PSC estimates that this will add another half a percent to the upcoming rate increase, to make the total rate increase more than 16%.
Converting from bimonthly to monthly meter reading in the territory of both FirstEnergy operating companies in West Virginia will require a transition period that allows FirstEnergy time to procure additional equipment, hire and train new meter readers and make any necessary changes to its billing platform. Therefore, the Commission will require that FirstEnergy implement monthly meter reading as quickly as possible, and no later than July 1, 2015. The Commission will monitor the transition as part of the adjustment to its metrics discussed below. The Commission will be watching for continued improvement and consistent performance. The handling of current annual read customers will also be discussed in the relevant section below. FirstEnergy should file amendments to the tariffs of each West Virginia operating company that provide for monthly meter reading and billing for residential customers. Finally, FirstEnergy may request to amend its filings in the pending general rate proceeding and provide evidence of the reasonable increase in the estimated cost of service.
NOBODY RECOMMENDED THAT THE COMPANY BE ORDERED TO READ METERS MONTHLY, INDEFINITELY, AND AT THE CUSTOMERS' EXPENSE.
But the PSC batted aside every constructive suggestion, in addition to your calls that the company be punished for its willful violation of its tariff. Instead, it rewarded FirstEnergy with another $5M rate increase!
The bi-monthly meter reading system of the former Allegheny Power worked fine for many years. It was only AFTER Allegheny Power was acquired by Ohio utility holding company FirstEnergy that the problems started. The PSC admits that the transition to FirstEnergy business practices, in addition to poor decision making, caused the problems. The switch to monthly reading can therefore be easily tied to the ill-advised FirstEnergy merger. The PSC and FirstEnergy promised us that customers wouldn't have to pay higher rates as a result of the merger. Once again, the PSC has failed us.
To add insult to injury, the PSC and FirstEnergy are in cahoots to spin this as a victory for the customers in the press. The PSC is crowing about how they have ordered FirstEnergy to read meters monthly, without mentioning who is going to pay for it. You are! They must really think you're stupid. Don't fall for it!
West Virginia electric customers have now been punished for speaking out about the abuse heaped on them by Ohio-based FirstEnergy. It's going to cost us at least $5M.
This is the clearest example of regulatory failure I've ever witnessed.