(03/11/2011)
More electric power customers are falling behind on their bills.

The average delinquent bill balance has jumped from $100 to over $300, according to the electric company.

West Virginia's economy has entered the recession later and is coming out of it more slowly, with the latest unemployment figure at 10.3 percent.

Unemployments numbers don't really reflect actual unemployment, only those currently getting unemployment benefits.

The Heart and Hand Community Service Center in South Charleston says, "We are finding that most everybody we speak to, their electric bill has tripled since July."

"Bills that would have been $200 to $300 last year are now $400 to $500. The price of food has gone up, the price of gas has gone up, utilities have gone up. The only thing that hasn't gone up is wages," said the agency, and then the state is looking at record high unemployment numbers.

Following a 2008 spike in coal costs, the state Public Service Commission allowed Appalachian Power to seek increases in a series of annual steps rather than in one single large increase to cover past and ongoing costs of fuel, purchased power and pollution control equipment.

The first request, filed in 2009, resulted in an 11 percent rate hike for residential customers.

The second request, filed last year, resulted in a 7.4 percent increase.

On March 1 the utility asked for an 8.9 percent rate hike, which is pending.

Separately, last May, Appalachian Power requested a 17 percent increase in its base rate. In December the utility agreed to accept 7 percent. That hike also is pending.

Appalachian Power serves about 440,000 customers in the state.


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