Cost of power from winter storm could be spread out over years

Mike Seals - March 4, 2021 11:55 pm

by: Angela Shen

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Four utility companies are applying for payment deferrals with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, so the extra costs incurred from the winter storm won’t be put on customers right away.

“Bottom line, what the companies want is a deferral of those costs so they don’t have to put them on people’s bills yet,” Matt Skinner with the Oklahoma Cooperation Commission said.

Of the two major companies, ONG has been approved for a deferral of $1.5 billion.

They say:

“The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved a request that would defer $1.5 billion in extraordinary gas and other related costs associated with the recent extreme winter weather event over a reasonable period of time to prevent those costs from hitting customer bills all at once.  We have not requested a deferral like this in more than 25 years.

“As noted within the commission order, the method of recovery and time period for recovery will be determined in a separate case.  Our intent will be to minimize the impact to customers over time. Any interest will be associated with financing to purchase gas during this extreme weather event.  The financing costs will be a part of the overall costs we recover from customers.

“Oklahoma Natural Gas does not benefit from increases in natural gas market costs. As a reminder, Oklahoma Natural Gas does not set the price, nor does it mark up the price it pays for natural gas.  Oklahoma Natural Gas purchases the gas from suppliers and then delivers it to customers’ homes. 

“We will work with customers to help them find alternatives for paying their bill.  Customers will see an increase on their April bills or later due to the prolonged, historically low temperatures, where we saw much higher natural gas use and a significant increase in natural gas prices. With the approval of the deferral from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, these costs will be spread out.  There are a number of payment options and resources we offer and we’ve created a web page with resources and information at oklahomanaturalgas.com/CARES.”

“It could be awhile before a decision is made as to how much will be passed on to consumers and how,” Skinner said.

OG&E is still in the process of getting approval for a deferral. They spend $1 billion on the winter storm.

“Fuel costs are passed onto the customer because that’s the cost to generate the electricity. That’s not actually something we can take on as company. It’s just too expensive for us to handle,” David Kimmel with OG&E said.

They’re discussing spreading out the extra costs over a ten year period, with an average increase of about ten percent per bill.

The Corporation Commission is reminding customers of each company that there’s still a process go through before any definitive changes.

“It’s very important to remember there are a lot of numbers being thrown around with B’s in front of them, but no one has filed yet the specific request with specific numbers to pass on to the consumer for the commission to review. All we’re hearing right now is general estimates,” Skinner said.

He says customers will see some increases in their upcoming bill becomes more usage, but the rates haven’t changed.

“Your next bill if you haven’t gotten it yet for the period that included the winter storm will probably be higher because we all used more energy to keep our homes warm when it was below zero,” he said. 

 

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