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Cost of monthly meter reading stirs dissent

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – Coalition for Reliable Power spokesman Keryn Newman isn’t happy with the state Public Service Commission’s decision requiring FirstEnergy subsidiaries Potomac Edison and Monongahela Power to provide monthly meter reading and billing – practices that will be subsidized by ratepayers, she said.

However, her prediction isn’t being challenged by either the electric utility or the PSC because both are now involved in a rate increase case that will potentially be impacted by this meter reading decision.

The PSC issued an order late last month – following a general investigation into the two subsidiaries’ meter-reading and billing practices – requiring these be done on a monthly basis as soon as possible, but beginning no later than July 1, 2015.

That’s a problem for electric consumers, Newman said, because FirstEnergy estimated during an evidentiary hearing with the state that it will cost an extra $5 million annually to cover these changes in the companies’ business practices.

“I understand the Public Service Commission is trying to fix the problem, but this is going to end up costing us money. There is overkill and overbill going on here,” she said.

Newman said customers shouldn’t have to pay for correcting this problem, which was created by the companies when they merged.

FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers said he isn’t sure what the final cost will be for doing the required meter reading, although he acknowledged that $5 million was in the company’s testimony for doing bi-monthly readings.

“But if we’re going to do monthly readings, we’re going to have to staff up and buy more of the hand-held units that we use to read meters. I don’t know if it will be a precise doubling of the staff, but it will be moving that direction and we’ll need basically twice as many people, although that might not be exact. But if you’re going to read twice as many more meters, you’re going to need a significant number of more people,” he said…

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