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    New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved rate hikes for the JCP&L utility last Friday. The increase will total $603 million and will be used to recover losses from power restoration and damaged caused by the 2012 super storm Sandy.

    Of the $603 million the utility spent on Sandy efforts, $345 million was reportedly spent on capital expenditures, while the other $258 million was spent on other matters such as the cost of utility crews across the country that aided in restoration efforts.

    This is the second time in the past several months that JCP&L has requested rate hikes. In late November, the utility requested rate hikes to make up for costs stemming from Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm. If approved, the hikes would increase bills by roughly 1.2%. If both hikes are approved, the average residential bill would increase by 4.5%. While a rate increase was expected, many residents and business owners are left wondering if JCP&L inflated the $603 million needed to recover from storm costs. Nearly all of JCP&L's 1.1 million customers were affected from each of the 2011-2012 storms.

    The rate increase is distribution-related, so all JCP&L customers will be affected, no matter if they're receiving their electric supply from the utility or a retail electricity provider. JCP&L's supply rates are scheduled to decrease by 3% in June, from its current 10.96 cents per kilowatt hour. Customers shopping around for a retail electricity provider should look for supply rates below 10.632 cents per kilowatt hour, which will be the approximate new Price-to-Compare in June.