PSO Rate Hike Put To Reality Check

Thursday, January 15th 2009, 6:27 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Many PSO customers are grumbling at the news their electric bill is going up, again.  It's the second rate increase in two years.  And, some say in these tough economic times, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission shouldn't have approved an $80 million increase.  Some wonder if PSO is rate hike-happy.

Even with temperatures in the teens, some are hesitant to adjust that thermostat, thanks to a new rate hike from PSO.

"We're going to do everything we can to hold down the costs. We don't want to implement rate increases. It's no fun for us," said PSO's Stan Whiteford.

No fun at all for residential customers who will now pay about 6% more for electricity.  But, the reality is the rate increase isn't as large as it could have been.

PSO wanted to raise rates to the tune of more than $120 million.  But, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which has to OK rate hikes, only approved $80 million.

A commission spokesperson says a major factor in the reduction was concern for the impact on consumers.

"Even with this increase, bills will be lower for the same amount of electricity," said PSO's Stan Whiteford.

PSO claims your bills could actually be going down.

Last November, 1,000 kilowatts of power would have cost you $98.92.  Next month, with the increase, the same amount of power will cost you $84.58.

The difference is a fuel charge.

By law, PSO can pass their fuel costs down to you.  So, when natural gas prices spiked last year, your fuel charge jumped 18%.  When they went back down last month, PSO took away that charge.

The bottom line is your bill could be smaller now, as long as fuel prices stay low.

But why does the rate have to go up at all?

PSO says every pole that goes down in the ground and every tower that goes up, costs them more.  And, they're trying to recoup some of the $440 million they've invested to keep the lights on.

"Even though there will be a slight increase in base rates that customers are still getting a great value for the service we deliver and they will still pay less than the national average," said PSO's Stan Whiteford.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission says there have been two straight years of base rate hikes.  But, before that, PSO hadn't raised base rates since 1994.  And, in 2005, rates were actually cut.