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AEP utilities request 7.85% rate increase in West Virginia

Appalachian Power Co. and Wheeling Power Co. on May 9 filed for a 7.85% rate increase in West Virginia, which would raise revenues by $114.6 million.

If approved by the Public Service Commission of West Virginia, residential customers would see a monthly increase of $14.81, or 11.1%. Commercial monthly rates would increase by about $42.43, or 11.5%, while industrial customers would see an increase of $1,960 per month, or 1.1%. The utilities requested a June 8 effective date for the rates, adding that proposed changes to rate structure would help reduce high winter electric heating bills and seasonal bill volatility for residential customers.

The rate hike request includes a 10.22% return on equity.

The American Electric Power Co. Inc. subsidiaries said half of the rate increase request was driven by a "significant decline in the amount of electricity used by customers," with the number of residential customers down 11,000 since 2013 and electricity usage down 14%. The rate request also reflect the utilities' infrastructure investments in the last several years.

Appalachian Power President and COO Chris Beam said the proposed rate request "includes the cost of maintaining and improving utility infrastructure, higher state and local taxes, a reduction in federal income taxes and significantly lower customer usage."

The filing also reflects the recent federal tax overhaul of 2017, which reduced the companies' request by approximately $52 million, according to a May 9 news release.

The companies also recently filed a proposal to use additional federal tax savings to offset roughly $132 million in unrecovered fuel and vegetation management costs, allowing rates for those charges to remain unchanged.