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Dependable electricity costs money in W.Va.

TWO terrible storms this year knocked out power for hundreds of people in West Virginia. Appalachian Power said it cost $62 million to restore electricity after June's derecho and another $25 million after last month's Sandy blizzard.

One way or another, West Virginian users of Appalachian Power will have to pay that $87 million bill if they want reliable, dependable electricity.

This is a state that is three-quarters forest, and all those trees pose a danger to power lines.

Add to this its hilly terrain and a population equivalent to the population of Greater Pittsburgh spread out over 24,000 square miles, and keeping the lights on in West Virginia gets to be expensive.

The one saving grace is that most of the electricity consumed in West Virginia is generated by coal, which remains a relatively cheap and efficient source of domestic energy. This keeps costs down.

Appalachian Power and other utility companies have yet to file claims for rate hikes, but in the past, electric companies have sought temporary hikes to pay these unexpected costs.

If the utility companies do seek relief, members of the Public Service Commission should be sympathetic. Repairing downed power lines in the cold, damp and dark is part of the cost of living in West Virginia.

Appalachian Power spent $31.6 million restoring power to customers throughout Southern West Virginia after two major snowstorms in December 2009.

The cost exceeded the amount of money the company budgeted to cover such emergencies. Appalachian Power sought a temporary rate hike of $22.8 million to cover these extra costs, but the PSC approved a hike of only $18 million.

This increased rates by an average of 14 cents per month per customer for eight years, hardly a budget buster.

No one likes paying more for electricity.

People like sitting in the dark and sweating - or freezing - even less.


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