Philly heating customers steamed about Veolia's $3.3M rate request

Some large Center City steam-heat customers have filed protests over a proposed $3.3 million rate-increase request filed by Veolia Energy Philadelphia, Inc., prompting the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Thursday to launch a full-scale rate review.

Veolia, which operates the district steam system that serves 250 customers in Center City and University City, in June asked the PUC to approve the rate increase, which would boost overall revenue 5.2 percent. But because many large steam-loop customers are on fixed long-term contracts, the bills for some customers would go up about 8.9 percent.

Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health System, neighbors to the smaller of Veolia’s two steam generation plants at 915 Walnut Street, filed to intervene in the case. So did the Philadelphia Large Steam Users Group, representing the Building Owners & Managers Association of Philadelphia.

Other large customers include the University of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia, which heats City Hall and the Art Museum with Veolia’s steam.

Veolia, in its rate filing, said it needs the rate increase just to break even in its steam operations and to maintain reliable operations. The company also makes money selling electricity from its cogeneration plant on Christian Street in Grays Ferry, though power-generation revenue is not factored into its rate request for steam customers.

The PUC’s review pushes back the date that a rate change would go into effect until April 1, rather than next month.