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Residents speak out about AES proposal to raise electric rates

A man stands at a wooden podium speaking into a microphone in a room full of chairs, with some other residents seated and utility commissioners seated at a wooden table at the front of the room.
Chris Welter
Karl Biermann of Centerville, who opposes the plan, testifies to Public Utilities Commission of Ohio representatives in Dayton on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2022.

Some residents spoke out on Thursday night about a proposal that would raise their electricity rates by up to $4 a month.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio held a hearing in Dayton on AES Ohio's application with the state for its electric security plan.

An electric security plan gives utilities like AES Ohio a chance to explain to state regulators how it will make sure enough energy is available for its customers. The plans lays out things like how utilities plan to modernize the grid and the economic development initiatives they will fund with customer money.

Part of the security plan process also includes asking the state how much the utility is allowed to charge customers. AES Ohio’s plan in its current form indicates that it wants to increase rates.

The majority of people who spoke at the hearing Thursday night opposed the proposal, including Dayton resident Kathleen Galt. She said she's on a fixed income.

“I know a lot of other seniors who are having a very difficult time paying their bills,” Galt said. “I called the Salvation Army and they said they're receiving 50 to 75 phone calls a day asking for assistance with their utility bills.”

AES Ohio’s Economic Development Lead Rob Beeler said after the meeting that utility bills are high right now because of last year’s spike in energy prices due to inflation. He also said the new electric security plan could lead to more electricity usage, which could help reduce the upward pressure on rates that customers pay.

Jeff Hoagland, President and CEO of the nonprofit Dayton Development Coalition, told the utility commissioners he supports AES Ohio’s plan. It will promote development, he said.

“The Dayton region needs a strong electric utility that stands ready to partner with public and private entities to sustain economic growth with affordable, reliable and resilient energy,” Hoagland said.

Hoagland mentioned the Honda/LG EV plant that’s being built in Fayette County as an example of that kind of partnership.

After Hoagland’s testimony, he responded to an attorney from the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel and said AES Ohio gives money to the development coalition and that a former AES Ohio employee is on his board of trustees. The consumers’ counsel is an intervenor in the case.

Next month a hearing about the electric security plan will be held in Columbus. There, attorneys representing different stakeholders will be able to give their thoughts on the plan.

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is an Environmental Reporter at WYSO through Report for America. In 2017, he completed the radio training program at WYSO's Eichelberger Center for Community Voices. Prior to joining the team at WYSO, he did boots-on-the-ground conservation work and policy research on land-use issues in southwest Ohio as a Miller Fellow with the Tecumseh Land Trust.