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Press Release

PUC Launches Online ‘Smart Hearing’ to Expand Public Input Regarding PPL Electric Distribution Rate Increase Request

Published on 5/14/2015

Filed under: Electric

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today announced the launch of its online “Smart Hearing” pilot project, in an effort to make it easier for utility customers to comment on proposed rate increase requests. The first test for live-streamed online hearings will involve the proposed distribution rate changes by PPL Electric Utilities Corporation (PPL).

“It is vital to gather as much public input as possible to help the Commission determine what, if any, of each requested increase is justified,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “In situations such as this, where a utility serves consumers across a wide geographic area, we hope this Smart Hearing concept will increase the number of people who are able to view and offer comment during these important public input hearings.”

PPL provides service to more than 1.4 million consumers in 29 counties – a region spanning approximately 10,000 square miles. On April 23, 2015, the Commission voted unanimously to investigate the company’s request for a $167.5 million (18.5 percent) increase in annual electric distribution rates.

The new Smart Hearings will enable residents throughout Pennsylvania to see and hear the testimony being offered without the need to travel in order to attend the hearings in person. During the Smart Hearings, concerned individuals will be able to offer their comments by telephone, from the convenience of their homes or other locations, to be included in the live Internet stream. In-person testimony at the Harrisburg hearing site also will be included, for those who prefer to comment in that manner.

During the last PPL base rate case, in 2012, the PUC held five public input hearings at locations in the PPL service territory, including Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Bethlehem, Allentown and Harrisburg, but despite that wide outreach effort only 13 total witnesses appeared to offer their testimony. 

“We hope that by making these new Smart Hearings available online, allowing consumers across the state to watch and participate, we will be able to gather more valuable input to help guide the Commission,” Brown noted.

Smart Hearings

PUC Administrative Law Judge Susan D. Colwell will conduct a total of three hearings for public input regarding the PPL distribution rate increase request. The first two hearings will be live-streamed Smart Hearings, including both telephone and in-person testimony: 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015 
1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Commonwealth Keystone Building
400 North St.
Hearing Room 1
Harrisburg, PA 17120

Those wishing to offer testimony by telephone during the Smart Hearing should contact the Office of Consumer Advocate (OCA) at 717-783-5048 or 1-800-684-6560 no later than Tuesday, May 26 in order to register and receive additional information.  Those who register to testify will be provided in advance with a 15 minute window of time when they can expect to be called in order to provide their testimony. Those who wish to attend the Harrisburg hearings can sign in at the time of the hearing. Detailed information about the hearings is available on the PUC website.

Additionally, a third hearing will be held in Allentown, where PPL is headquartered, to gather more in-person testimony: 

Thursday, June 4, 2015
6 p.m.
Muhlenburg College
Seegers Union, Rooms 108-110
2400 Chew Street
Allentown PA 18104  

Participation in the in-person hearing requires no prior action.

Rate Increase Request:

On April 23, 2015, the Commission voted 5-0 to investigate the company’s request to increase annual electric distribution rates by $167.5 million (18.5 percent). Under the rate increase request, the monthly electric bill for an average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would increase from $147.31 to $157.50 (6.9 percent).

The request is suspended for up to seven months and will be assigned to the Office of Administrative Law Judge for public hearings and a recommended decision or settlement. A final decision must be made by Jan. 1, 2016. More information on the ratemaking process is available on the Commission’s website.

Offering Comment at a Hearing

Members of the public are welcome to attend the hearings and provide comments. Their testimony will become part of the record on which the PUC will issue its final decision.

The PUC and Office of Consumer Advocate offer tips on how to participate, including:

  • Prepare what you are going to say beforehand.  Even though it is not required, you may want to write out your statement, which can be read.

  • Bring copies, if you are attending an in-person hearing.  If you have a written statement you would like to give to the judge as evidence, please bring two copies for the court reporter and several copies for the other participants.

  • Plan to be questioned.  Parties in the case may want to ask you a question to clarify something you said. 

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.

For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility.  “Like” PAPowerSwitch on Facebook for easy access to information on electric shopping.

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