• Tue. Sep 20th, 2022

AEP Ohio does not want an independent audit; prefers the State Commission probe | Ohio

ByChad J. Johnson

Aug 1, 2022

(The Center Square) – Ohio’s largest utility company does not want the Ohio Public Utilities Commission to conduct an independent, outside investigation into the summer power outages, despite calls from consumer groups .

AEP Ohio, which serves approximately 1.5 million residential and business customers in central, southeast and northwest Ohio, said in a filed response to a recent motion that an independent investigation would be a costly and time-consuming litigation process while PUCO conducts its investigation. .

“(T)he Commission should not (in response to a transparent attempt by subjective advocates to eclipse the independent efforts of the Commission as a regulator) be micromanaged and bullied into opening up an unnecessarily costly, time-consuming and contentious process while the Commission has already proactively engaged in a stakeholder process and staff-led investigation regarding the June 2022 power outages,” reads an AEP filing with PUCO.

Governor Mike DeWine, along with several lawmakers and consumer groups, asked for answers after severe storms in June caused power outages across the state. AEP immediately followed the outages with a series of planned outages during a record-breaking heatwave that left hundreds of thousands of people hot and dark.

PUCO has announced it will conduct a review of all Ohio electric utilities related to power outages, but Ohio Consumer Advocate Pro Seniors, Inc. and the Ohio Poverty Law Center filed a motion asking an independent auditor to investigate whether AEP was negligent and liable to consumers for damages during the outages.

It also requested local public hearings and online comment.

“PUCO has announced that it is conducting what it has termed a ‘review’ of AEP outages,” the motion reads. “’Review’ is an interesting choice of words on the part of PUCO. The word is not an art regulatory term with a more formalized defined meaning such as the word “investigation”. For example, to date, the PUCO review does not have a file number that would allow for stakeholder interventions and a process. We are concerned that much of the review is being done by the AEP and other self-assessing utilities. Such self-regulation is not a substitute for government regulation of monopolistic utilities in the public interest.