FirstEnergy’s Modernization Drive Could Lift Electric Rates in Pennsylvania

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READING, PA — In a move that could affect over two million customers, FirstEnergy Pennsylvania (FE PA) has submitted a review request of its base electric rates to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC). This proposal, if approved, could lead to monthly bill increases ranging from $16.61 to $21.30, or approximately a 9.2% to an 11.8% hike.

The request comes as a continuation of FE PA’s strategic focus to scale outages and improve the quality of key services. Leveraging the benefits of technology and capitalizing on automated processes, FE PA aims to minimize the scope and duration of power outages across its service territory.

At the heart of the rate revamp is the ambition to modernize the grid. The implementation of advanced technology will allow FE PA to increase the frequency of inspections of overhead circuits and transformers, identifying aging equipment that needs to be replaced. Simultaneously, the company plans to convert approximately 85,000 company-owned streetlights to energy-efficient LEDs, promoting sustainability and cost savings in the long run.

Additionally, the proposal features a stringent vegetation management program, with the intention to remove over 2.4 million trees and overhanging limbs that could potentially damage the infrastructure. According to data, off-right-of-way trees have been responsible for over 90% of tree-caused service interruptions. This initiative, slated for the next decade, will therefore markedly reduce tree-related power disruptions, ensuring a smoother service for the consumers.

Moreover, FE PA is going big on customer-centric initiatives. These include the creation of an Energy Assistance Outreach Team, aimed at raising awareness and participation in energy assistance programs for low-income customers. The utility firm is also looking to eliminate service fees for customers paying their electric bills via credit cards, after it emerged from customer surveys that 45% would prefer this payment method if it didn’t incur extra fees.

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Taking a leap to the future, FE PA has proposed an enticing electric vehicle (EV) pilot program. This initiative seeks to stimulate EV purchases by offering rebates for licensed electricians to install home chargers and more.

The company’s rate request, which totals $502 million across its four Pennsylvania rate districts, last saw a review in 2016. If approved, the changes introduced will be in line with the statewide average for other utility providers, balancing the need for system investment and maintaining comparable electric bills.

Scott Wyman, President of FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania Operations, reaffirmed the company’s commitment to deliver dependable electricity to homes, businesses, and communities. “The work we are doing makes a positive difference – installation of new equipment coupled with proactive tree trimming has helped reduce the frequency of electric service interruptions experienced by our Pennsylvania customers by 14 percent since 2019.”

This proposal will now undergo a meticulous scrutiny process by the PUC. If given green light, this could mark a major turning point for FirstEnergy Pennsylvania, setting a precedent for grid modernization and customer-focused initiatives. Notwithstanding, the impact on consumers, especially in the face of economic challenges, will be closely monitored.

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