Electric restructuring is almost a reality for Ohio consumersstatewide as American Electric Power’s (AEP) transition plan wasthe latest to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission ofOhio. AEP’s Ohio customers will now have the freedom of choosingtheir electricity supplier, with service starting as early as Jan.1.

AEP’s Columbus Southern Power Co. and Ohio Power serveapproximately 1.3 million electric customers. In May, the companyreached a stipulated settlement agreement with intervenors.

“This order provides an opportunity to jump start the market byproviding the resources for retail customers to begin to shop forcompetitive generation services,” said PUCO Chairman Alan Schriber.

AEP Ohio President Floyd Nickerson said, “For the most part ,we’re pleased with the approval. However, we disagree with thePUCO’s treatment of the gross receipts tax, and we will be askingfor a rehearing on this issue.

AEP Spokesperson Deb Strohmaier explained the tax dispute, “Webelieve as it stands right now, the rule, and the order, and theway the law is written, that there would be a double collection onthe gross receipts tax. We disagree with the commission on that;$97 million is what we would have to eat, if that stands.”

Terms of the stipulation agreement provide for extended ratefreezes through 2005 or the end of the market development period,rate reductions of 5% for residential customers as of Jan. 1, andother conditions expected to increase the savings of commercial andresidential customers.

PUCO has already approved plans from Cincinnati Gas &Electric, Dayton Power and Light, and First Energy earlier thissummer. The only remaining utility not approved as of yet isMonongahela Power, which is scheduled to go before PUCO later thisweek. Stipulations including a 5% rate reduction and rate freezesare almost standard across the utilities. All of the companies’electric deregulation plans begin on Jan. 1, 2001.

PUCO spokesperson Beth Gianforcaro said billboards are alreadygoing up, and the consumer education effort will begin inmid-to-late October. She also said that marketers have startedsubmitting for certification, “probably about three or four.”Certification is PUCO’s next priority, she added.

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