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Published: Thursday, 11/3/2005

Edison to charge more as of Jan. 1

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
The extra charges are for higher fees from the manager of the 15-state electricity grid. 
The extra charges are for higher fees from the manager of the 15-state electricity grid.
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Toledo Edison Co. customers, who pay electric rates that are among the highest in the state, will pay about $2.25 a month more starting in January to cover higher power transmission fees.

Its parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., asked state regulators this week for permission to bill customers for higher charges from another company that manages the electricity grid in 15 states.

The higher charge is not related to FirstEnergy s pending request to defer billing customers for higher fuel charges. Under the utility s approved plan, rates for Toledo Edison residential customers would be frozen from 2006 through 2008 with some exceptions, such as fuel costs. Transmission charges are handled separately.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved in August a mechanism for FirstEnergy to recover its transmission cost increases from the grid operator, Midwest Independent System Operator Inc.

The higher fees relate to system upgrades demanded by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which acted after the August, 2003, blackout. That was the nation s largest power outage and affected 50 million people in the northeastern United States, including in Toledo, and parts of Canada.

An investigating commission determined that the blackout began in FirstEnergy territory, in part because of poor line maintenance and computer system problems.

The filing this week specifies how much the fee will be. The charge will begin in January and last through June, when FirstEnergy will seek an adjusted fee.

The fee automatically will be approved for use Jan. 1 unless objections are made by various parties, including the Office of the Ohio Consumers Counsel, said Shana Eiselstein, a utilities commission spokesman.

A spokesman for the consumers counsel said the state s utility watchdog is not considering an objection to the request. The office has objected, however, to parts of the FirstEnergy rate plan and is worried about the larger issue of customers paying for increased administrative costs from regional transmission organizations, spokesman Ryan Lippe said.

We re always concerned about increased costs, he said.

The role of the Midwest Independent System Operator is, in part, to try to ensure the smooth flow of electricity across a broad area and to carefully monitor overloads or other problems on the major transmission lines, or grid.

FirstEnergy said its costs for participating in the grid operator s organization have been higher than expected, especially since the Indiana firm began centrally dispatching wholesale electricity and transmission service throughout much of the Midwest in April, said FirstEnergy spokesman Ellen Raines.

Starting Jan. 1, Toledo Edison customers will pay 0.3 cent per kilawatt-hour used, or $2.25 a month for those using an average of 750 kilowatt-hours a month.

Ms. Raines said her company was unable to recover related yet smaller costs in 2003 and 2004.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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