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    OG&E customers express increasing bill complaints


    June 10, 2022 - Jack Money

     

      Oklahoma Gas and Electric customers are expressing frustration as the utility seeks to increase their bills a second time in less than a year.

      Many expressed concerns last month during a public hearing an administrative law judge at the Corporation Commission held to receive public comments on the utility's plans.

      More are expected Tuesday, when the judge reopens the hearing at 8:30a.m., kicking off what could be several days of testimony regarding the utility's requested rate increase of 8.4%.

      Cumulatively, the increase would give the utility an additional $164 million annually to operate its system. If approved as submitted, an average residential customer could see their increase by more than $10 a month.

      "My husband and I are living on just one income," Paulette, an OG&E customer who said she lives in Oklahoma City, remarked about the proposed increase. "I have a disability and ... have been unable to work for quite some time, but I have never collected disability. We have tried to do it on our own.

      "My husband only makes a certain amount of money, and it isn't a whole lot. With the way it is today with inflation, you know, with gas prices and costs for food at the grocery store going so high, this is going to make it very difficult for us.

      "We just can't do it all. We can't pay all that."

      Paulette was one of dozens of participants who took part in a webinar AARP of Oklahoma held for OG&E customers earlier this week to discuss the utility's rate increase proposal.

      OG&E's rate, or monthly cost it charges users for service, basically functions like an automobile lease where the owner (the utility) is compensated by customers for their using its system of generating facilities, transmission lines, substations, distribution lines and transformers that the utility builds and maintains to deliver the power to them.

      Under state law, utilities are allowed to recover a return on their investment to keep the system functioning as intended as part of an approved rate.

      But OG&E residential customers already will see their bills increase by more than $2 in August, once bonds are sold to recover the utility's $736 million in extraordinary fuel costs related to Winter Storm Uri in February, 2021.

      Fuel costs are passed through directly to utility customers.

      AARP Oklahoma urged all Oklahomans concerned about OG&E's proposed increase to contact Oklahoma's Corporation Commission at 844-981-1701.

      "At AARP Oklahoma, we know the frustration you feel when you see your bill has gone up again, and that you are alone and can't do anything about it," said Sean Voskuhl, the organization's director.

      "But ... you can do something about it. Your voice, combined with thousands of others across Oklahoma, can make a difference."

      Business Writer Jack Money covers Oklahoma's energy and agricultural beats for the newspaper and Oklahoman.com. Contact him at jmoney@oklahoman.com. Please support his workand that of other Oklahomanjournalists by subscribing to The Oklahoman.

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