Appalachian Power's residential customer rates are climbing 7 percent, the fifth time in four years that the utility has raised electric bills.

The state Public Service Commission approved the increase last week.

The rate hike will bring in an additional $98.7 million in annual revenue for Appalachian Power and Wheeling Power, both subsidiaries of American Electric Power.

The increase is part of a four-year plan to cover record high coal costs.

The PSC agreed to allow the power company to spread out the rate increase so customers wouldn't be hammered by a huge hike all at once.

Starting in July, power company customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity will see their monthly bills increase from $90.94 to $97.34.

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