ACE Looks for 6.6% Rate Bump to Beef Up Delivery System

Tom Johnson | March 31, 2017 | Energy & Environment
For Atlantic City Electric customers, rate increase would mean about $9.00 more on monthly bills

utility pole
Atlantic City Electric is back before state regulators seeking to boost rates for most of its half-million customers by about $9 per month in a rate increase submitted yesterday.

In a filing to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the utility is seeking to increase its revenue by $70.2 million to recover costs for upgrades to its energy infrastructure.

If approved as requested, the typical residential bill would increase by about 6.6 percent from $136.90 to $145.90, according to the utility.

The rate request, coming on the heels of a nearly 4 percent boost in customers’ bills approved by the state agency last March, is being sought by the company at a time when state officials are pressing utilities to enhance reliability and resiliency, particularly when slammed by extreme storms.

“Modernizing our energy infrastructure is critical to providing quality service to our customers who rely on us to power their lives and the southern New Jersey economy,’’ said Vince Maione, Atlantic City Electric president.

The utility, which merged with Exelon Corp., a year ago, is making strides to provide more reliable service, according to Maione. In the past year, its customers — 80 percent of whom are residential — experienced 33 percent fewer outages and the average time customers were without power declined by 35 percent when compared with 2011.

In 2016, Atlantic City Electric spent nearly $160 million to maintain and strengthen its delivery system. It built a new substation in Cape May County and replaced hundreds of deteriorated poles through its service territory. The utility also completed nearly 30 separate substation enhancement projects that included new transformers, switchgear, and other equipment.

ACE also spent almost $25 million on tree trimming and vegetation management to curtail the major source of power outages. It marked a $9 million increase compared to the previous year.

The company anticipates implementing the rates in nine months from the date of the filing. Bill credits will be given to customers if the board shaves the amount of the rate request, which is typical.

New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel director Stefanie Brand expressed some concern about the rate request, noting that it is the sixth time the company has looked to up its rates since 2010. “I know they are investing a lot of money, but it doesn’t answer the question why they are coming in in every year,’’ Brand said. “It’s a lot of money.’’