Power Lines

An AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. employee works to restore power to a Longview neighborhood in April after a power line was brought down during an overnight storm.

Less than three years after receiving approval for a customer rate increase, AEP Southwestern Electric Power Co. is seeking a 15 percent hike that would take effect in January 2022.

SWEPCO said in a statement Wednesday that the company submitted a request to the Public Utility Commission of Texas for a net annual increase of $90.2 million in its non-fuel base rates. For a Texas residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month, the change would result in an overall bill increase of almost $16 per month.

“We recognize that customers are concerned about their energy costs, especially during the pandemic,” said Malcolm Smoak, SWEPCO president and chief operating officer. “We continually work to balance customers’ expectations about cost and service with the costs necessary to build, maintain and operate a strong and reliable electric system. In the months ahead, the Public Utility Commission and other stakeholders will carefully review our request.”

The company said the request includes investments in generation, transmission and distribution facilities since 2016, additional funds for vegetation management, plus increased operations and maintenance costs to provide reliable and safe service to Texas customers.

In December 2017, the Public Utility Commission OK’d SWEPCO’s request for a 12.7 percent rate increase. At the time, the company said factors related to that request included investments in additional power plant environmental equipment required to meet federal mandates.

Before that, the PUC granted SWEPCO a 6 percent rate increase in March 2014 that generated about an extra $16.8 million annually.

After a power outage in August 2019 left 85,000 Northeast Texas electric customers in the dark and temporarily crippled Eastman Chemical Co.’s plant outside Longview, SWEPCO blamed vegetation that came into contact with power lines, with heat and high power usage factoring in as well.

A SWEPCO spokeswoman said soon after that the company had allocated an extra $3 million for vegetation management and also warned that the additional work likely would affect future rate increase requests.

SWEPCO serves more than 543,000 customers in northwest and central Louisiana, northeast Texas and the Texas Panhandle and western Arkansas.