Duke seeks electric, gas rate increases in Ohio

CINCINNATI - Duke Energy Ohio Inc. is seeking an $86.6 million increase in electric rates and $44.6 million in natural gas rates for customers in southwest Ohio.

The Cincinnati-based utility on Monday filed applications with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, asking for approval of increases that Duke wants to take effect in January 2013.

Under the proposals, the typical residential electric customer would pay about $6.50 more monthly, and the average residential gas bill would go up about $8.21 a month, Duke spokeswoman Sally Thelen said Tuesday. Commercial and industrial customers would see about a 4.6 percent increase in electric rates and about a 3.7 percent increase in gas rates, Thelen said.

The Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel has filed to intervene in the case on behalf of consumers, but is still reviewing details of Duke's applications before commenting, Consumers' Counsel spokesman Marty Berkowitz said.

The proposed electric rate increase would affect 690,000 electric customers in all or parts of Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, Highland, Preble, Montgomery and Warren counties. The proposed gas rate increase would affect 420,000 customers in all or parts of Adams, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, Highland, Montgomery and Warren counties.

Duke spokesman Jason Walls said the increases would allow the utility "to begin collecting from customers the investment it has already made to improve the electric and gas systems."

Duke has invested $310 million in projects to improve electric service reliability, according to the utility. The electric rate increase also is needed because of increases in general operation and maintenance costs for the distribution system and because of a decline in sales volumes since 2009.

The natural gas rate increase is needed to help reimburse the utility for the more than $500 million it invested in upgrading pipes and other parts of the gas distribution system at a time when the volume of natural gas sales has declined and for the more than $65 million needed to clean up two former manufactured gas plant sites.

Duke will have 60 days to provide supporting testimony before the Public Utilities Commission staff makes its recommendation. Time also will be allowed for any objections to be filed and for public hearings before the commission makes its decision. The commission has 275 days from the time of the application to make its decision.

Duke Ohio is a subsidiary of Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy.

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