Electric rates surge on fuel prices

June 16, 2008 at 12:09 PM

NEW YORK, June 16 (UPI) -- Rising oil, coal and natural gas prices are causing a surge in electricity rates in the United States, consumer groups said.

"Consumers now face a tough reality on electricity," Mark Cooper of Consumer Federation of America told USA Today.

Utility bills have jumped 30 percent in the past five years and are expected to jump up to as much as 29 percent more in some areas, the newspaper reported Monday.

High coal and natural gas prices have prompted Potomac Edison in Virginia to plan for a 29-percent rate increase, starting July 1. And Missouri electric company AmerenUE has asked for a 12.1-percent rate hike, after 20 years of stagnant prices, the newspaper reported.

The price of coal, responsible for half of U.S. power plant output, has doubled since 2007, while natural gas prices have risen 50 percent, the newspaper reported.

Other companies are raising rates to cover increased infrastructure costs or pay for future greenhouse gas emission fees, if laws change.

American Electric Power, with 5 million customers in 11 states may be forced to raise rates 115 percent to cover fuel costs, greenhouse emission fees and infrastructure, Hugh Wynn of Bernstein Research told USA Today.

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