State regulators on Monday signed off on a $4.3 million settlement that will result in most Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. customers paying less for their power.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission voted unanimously to approve the settlement reached by the state’s largest utility company and a handful of customer advocates. The deal closes a long-running rate case that began almost a year ago.
Chairwoman Dana Murphy said she was satisfied the agreement, which was announced last week, was in the public's best interests.
It gives OG&E a rate increase well below the $73 million it sought last July, but Brandy Wreath, acting director of the commission's public utility division, said the agreement's 10.2 percent return on equity balances the needs of the company's investors and customers.
OG&E had asked for an 11 percent return on equity.
Most OG&E customers will end up paying less for their electricity under the new agreement, although the bulk of the reductions are small. Average residential customers will save about 9 cents a month, according to the company's figures.
Melodie Garneau with Voices Organized in Civic Engagement Action Fund, a group of churches and civic groups, said she was pleased with the settlement.
“We consider it a win,” said Garneau, a group leader from Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ.
“We're told by the commission staff that our continued presence and comments bringing forward the concerns of families had a real impact on the process.”
Wreath said the settlement includes solutions to all of the concerns raised by those involved in the discussion of OG&E's rate request.
“We believe it's fair, just, reasonable, and we do believe it's in the public interest,” he said.
Several of the attorneys involved in the settlement talks credited Wreath with keeping the discussion moving over the past several months.
Tom Schroedter, executive director of the Oklahoma Industrial Energy Consumers, agreed the settlement is fair.
“Not everybody got everything they wanted,” he said. “That's how settlements work.”
OG&E officials were happy to be able to close out the rate case, which was filed July 28, 2011.
“We're pleased with the commission's decision and to finally have resolution with this case,” OG&E said spokesman Brian Alford.
The rate increase comes from higher rates for municipal and outdoor security lighting customers, who have been paying less for their electricity than it costs for OG&E to serve them, said Donald Rowlett, the utility's managing director of regulatory affairs.
He said the new rates will bring those customers closer to paying for the true cost of their electricity.