CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's two largest electricity suppliers have agreed to meet more stringent reliability standards being pushed by staff and consumer advocates at the state Public Service Commission, according to a deal made public Thursday.
Subsidiaries of FirstEnergy and American Electric Power had originally proposed much weaker versions of the first-ever electrical system reliability targets for how utilities should minimize power outages and quickly get electricity back on for their customers.
Under a proposed settlement, though, West Virginia utilities would have more time -- until 2014 -- to comply with the standards. PSC staff and consumer advocates had wanted the rules to apply immediately, and utilities had wanted then deferred until 2016 or 2018.
"In a settlement, you never get everything you'd like to achieve," said Byron Harris, chief of the PSC's consumer advocate division. "But it's a good outcome. This settlement should cause utilities to improve their reliability."
The settlement still needs PSC approval, and commissioners have indicated they plan to schedule a hearing on the matter.
Todd Meyers, a spokesman for FirstEnergy, said his company believes "the targets we've committed to achieve are reasonable, and that the 2014 timeline to meet the targets is achievable."
"We believe the agreement balances the interests of ratepayers, and should yield improved service reliability at a reasonable expense," Meyers said. "Increased reliability standards typically lead to increased costs. If you want to improve reliability, you need to spend more money on right-of-way maintenance. That said, neither Mon Power nor Potomac Edison have plans to request any rate increases in the near term to achieve the targets."
AEP officials could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this week, on the eve of scheduled PSC hearings Tuesday on the utility proposals, the commission revealed that FirstEnergy subsidiaries Monongahela Power and Potomac Edison had reached a deal with commission staff and consumer advocates.