Later this month, the Louisville Metro Government plans to formally intervene in a request before the Kentucky Public Service Commission (Case No. 2016-00347) from Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) to raise utility rates , according to a December 2 report on WFPL News, the local National Public Radio affiliate.
LG&E’s proposal would raise the basic service charge for both electric and gas on ratepayers’ bills, and would slightly decrease the cost of the actual electric and gas usage. The company estimates it will raise the average bill by $12.64.
Ratepayers currently pay $24.25 in service fees every month; if the Public Service Commission grants the rate increase, that amount will rise to $46 a month. That’s a large chunk of change for low-income ratepayers.
“So before you’ve even used any utilities, you’d be paying $46,” Cathy Hinko, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, told the radio station, adding, “If your income is $500 a month, $46 has a whole different meaning to you than if your income is $3,000 a month.”
“It’s important for Metro Government to be part of the discussion on a decision that will impact every household in our city,” Mayor Greg Fischer opined in a public statement. “This will allow us the ability to advocate for the citizens of Louisville while better understanding the needs of LG&E.”
The city’s $17 million LG&E annual expense makes Louisville Metro one of the largest, if not the largest, single customers that LG&E serves.
LG&E’s requested 8.5 percent rate increase would affect all local residents and could potentially reduce the number of local families served by Louisville Metro’s low-income heating assistance program, Fischer pointed out. “As the state’s largest urban area, Louisville Metro also provides and pays for the most extensive street light and traffic light infrastructure of any city in Kentucky.”
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell will directly represent Louisville Metro and the interests of its citizens on this matter. The county attorney will also engage an outside law firm and use other expert resources as necessary.
“Louisville Metro has a special interest in this case that cannot be represented by any other party,” O’Connell said, in support of the Mayor’s comments. “It is important that the concerns of Louisville be heard. We will present issues and develop facts that will assist the Public Service Commission in fully considering this issue.”
The decision to seek intervention drew praise from other city officials.
“It is important that Metro Government intercede to be a voice for the hundreds of thousands of people who will not be able to speak directly to the Public Service Commission,” Metro Council President David Yates said. “For many households, the economy is slowly improving and we as representatives for every citizen of Louisville have a duty to ensure no undue burden is placed upon the shoulders of rate payers, of whom many are only just beginning to find room to breathe, financially. I fully support Metro Government’s decision to intervene.”
On the part of the utility, LG&E spokesperson Chris Whelan told the radio station that the change is necessary for LG&E to increase reliability. Part of the rate filing involves installing smart meters on every home and business. “We don’t go in and just ask for an increase in rates just to be doing it,” Whelan said. “We really think these initiatives that we’re doing and the investments we’re making in our system really will help improve safety and reliability and service to our customers.”
Louisville Metro will formally file its motion to intervene with the PSC later this month. The PSC will then decide whether to grant Louisville Metro’s request, along with any other groups who have already sought or may seek intervenor status.