Residential customers of Public Service Co. of Oklahoma will pay about $3 more per month on their electric bills starting in November under a proposed rate case settlement.
The higher costs will go toward the rollout of smart meters to more than 520,000 PSO customers. The installation should be complete by the end of 2016, the utility said.
PSO filed for a rate increase of $45 million in January, which would have increased customer bills by almost $4 per month. The proposed settlement, filed late Tuesday with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, would grant PSO an increase of $24 million.
The increase would be levied as a separate rider on customer bills beginning in November 2014 through December 2015. For residential customers, the increase would be an extra $3.11 per month. Commercial customers would pay another $3.88 per month, while small industrial customers would pay an extra $6.71 per month, according to the proposed settlement.
PSO expects the smart meter rider to increase by about 30 cents in 2016 and then be included as part of its overall rates to be calculated in a future rate case.
AARP Oklahoma said it opposed the proposed settlement because it doesn’t do enough for PSO’s residential customers.
“PSO shouldn’t be given an open checkbook to pay for its flawed smart meter expansion that will cost its customers nearly $133 million,” said Sean Voskuhl, AARP’s state director. “This settlement will also increase residential customers’ monthly fixed charge from $16 to $20. AARP also advocates for creation of a low-income program — similar to one already established by OG&E — that will help thousands of older Oklahomans who are struggling to pay their electric bills.”
PSO said new rate plans and energy management information made possible through smart meters will help offset the cost of the new meters.
“In addition, customers’ quality of electric service will improve through enhanced outage restoration capability, electronic reading of meters, remote connections and disconnections, and virtual elimination of estimated meter readings,” the utility said in a news release.
The proposed settlement still needs the approval of the three-member Corporation Commission.
In April, PSO said residential customers would pay an extra 6 percent on the fuel-cost portion of their bills because of higher natural gas costs. Residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month saw their bills go up by $5.68 starting in May.
PSO said it had $27 million in under-recovered fuel expenses, which are passed directly on to customers. The utility will recover those higher fuel costs for 12 months, and plans a review again in November.
PSO’s rate case filing didn’t include environmental compliance costs from its planned shutdown of one of its coal units at Northeastern Station near Oologah in May 2016. PSO plans to install emissions upgrades on another Northeastern coal unit before retiring it by 2026, part of its plan to address regional haze and other environmental rules. PSO said it will apply later at the commission to recover those costs.
Tulsa-based PSO has 540,000 customers in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma. It is a unit of American Electric Power Co. Inc.