By: Laurence Hammack | The Roanoke Times [link]

Bills for an average residential customer of Appalachian Power Co. will go up by about $11 a month, effective July 1.

The State Corporation Commission on Tuesday approved a request by Appalachian to raise the rate it charges to cover transmission costs for the electricity it delivers to about 500,000 customers in Virginia.

“We are sensitive to the effects of rate increases, especially in times such as these,” the commission stated in an order that referred to the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.

“The Commission, however, must follow the laws applicable to any rate case, as well as the findings of fact supported by the evidence in the record,” the order stated. “This is what we have done herein.”

At an SCC hearing in April, there was no direct opposition to Appalachian’s request. The commission was told that it was due in large part to a 50% increase since 2018 to the service charge the utility pays to PJM, an independent entity that oversees the power grid in Virginia and 12 other states.

The increase was one of several rate adjustment clauses, or riders, that Appalachian is asking the SCC to approve this year.

The company is also seeking an increase in its base rates, which would increase the bill of a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours a month by about $10. The SCC denied that request in November, but Appalachian has appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court.

No action had been taken by Tuesday in that case, according to Appalachian spokeswoman Teresa Hall.

If the utility gets all it is asking for from the high court and the SCC, monthly bills would go up by about $22. Appalachian says the requested increases come after a decade of stability in its rates.

Even higher bills are expected in the coming years as the utility — which has long been heavily dependent on coal and natural gas — will be required to shift to carbon-free electricity to slow the pace of climate change.