Last updated: July 25. 2013 9:01AM - 220 Views
Joedy McCreary

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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

One of the points of discussion surrounding the proposed New Steel plant to be located in Franklin Furnace has been the need for an energy company to contract with the facility to purchase the excess power which would be produced at the plant. Among those mentioned as a possible customer was Duke Energy. However one of the stumbling blocks was Duke Energy’s request for a rate increase from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Now, the PUCO has granted a rate increase.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Thursday adopted an agreement authorizing Duke Energy Ohio to increase its rates for electric distribution service by $49 million. A separate rate case related to the company’s natural gas distribution rates remains pending.

“The Commission’s duty is to balance the interest of those we regulate and that of the customer,” PUCO Chairman Todd A. Snitchler said. “Today’s order ensures Duke is able to move forward providing adequate and reliable electric distribution service. The Commission is appreciative of the stakeholder and public feedback that contributed in reaching today’s decision.”

The approved stipulation allows Duke to increase baseline distribution revenues to cover its costs of providing services and establishes a return on equity of 9.84 percent. In addition, a provision that would have allowed Duke’s to establish a mechanism to fund mass transit facility relocations was removed.

New Steel originally had an agreement with Duke Energy, but as time passed and Duke Energy became involved with a more pressing issue, that of completing their merger with Project Energy, the discussion seemingly took a back seat. That merger was completed, and Duke Energy then began to concentrate on the proposed rate increase requested from the PUCO.

It is not known what impact the rate increase will have on any New Steel agreement, and New Steel CEO John Shultes is not commenting on what impact, if any, that news has on the situation.

“We have a lot of work ahead, but we are sort of snailing our way, always in the right direction,” Shultes told the Daily Times Thursday.

Area business leaders and citizens pooled their money last year to pay for a Hatch Study for the project. A Hatch Study is an engineering study that is similar to an appraisal that is needed when someone purchases a house, or a business gets when they are in the process of garnering a loan.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.

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