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AEP gets OK to remotely disconnect power for some in Ohio

March 19, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — American Electric Power has won state approval to remotely disconnect the electricity of some Ohio customers who haven’t made payments.

The Wednesday ruling by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio applies to 132,000 central-Ohio AEP customers with new smart meters. The remote disconnection procedure will take effect in August, The Columbus Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1FHXPGB ).

The previous disconnect policy required a home visit to people who were late with payments. Each in-person visit costs AEP about $16.

Some consumer advocates opposed the change, saying it will lead to increased disconnections.

“That personal visit gives the customer one last shot to make arrangements to pay,” said Dave Rinebolt, with Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy. “More importantly, it ensures that customers understand that they’re about to be disconnected.”

AEP said customers will still receive warnings before being disconnected. The company has also agreed not to remotely disconnect electricity for certain customers, including people who have demonstrated difficulty understanding utility bills, people with mental impairments and those who depend on medical equipment.

The utilities commission said in its unanimous ruling that AEP’s request is reasonable and doesn’t violate state law.

Electric companies in southwest Ohio and northeast Ohio have also started using smart meters, which allow two-way communication between the meter and the utility.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, http://www.dispatch.com

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