Ppl In Pa May Start Billing Customers Storm Fees

04.04.14 | Sarah Harnisch

Customers of PPL Electric Utilities Corp. may be charged special fees beginning next year for the utility's storm-related expenses.

The state Public Utility Commission on Thursday granted the Allentown-based utility a storm damage expense rider, in addition to its standard rates. The ruling modified terms and conditions of the fee originally sought by PPL.

The new rate, which will allow PPL to charge customers for net annual storm damage costs exceeding $14.7 million, takes effect in January, according to a PUC order issued Thursday.

PPL filed the proposal in March 2013, three months after the PUC directed the utility to seek a storm damage fee as it issued a ruling in a base-rate case.

The proposal generated opposition from consumer and business groups. The state consumer advocate's office opposed the plan and argued for it to be considered with PPL's next base-rate case.

"We thought that it was unsound rate-making and bad policy," acting Consumer Advocate Tanya McCloskey said.

The issue created much confusion over what types of storms would be considered for coverage under the new tariff, she said.

"Storm expenses are a normal operating expense," Ms. McCloskey said. "If you have riders like this, you are going to have a reduction in the company's risk. If the risk is being shifted to ratepayers, we have to question the profit levels in their base rate-making cases."

The special fee would affect ratepayers only after large, damaging weather events, PPL spokesman Bryan Hay said.

"It is a fairer way to pay for and recover the actual costs," he said. "This will help customers with reliability."