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    Customers with Appalachian Power have already seen a 50 percent increase in electricity rates in the last four years, and now, thanks to a series of devastating storms, that rate could rise even higher, the Charleston Gazette reports.

    According to the news source, Appalachian president Charles Patton said it is still "very much too early to tell" if the energy company will ask the state Public Service Commission for a rate hike. However, he did remark that the recent storm that wiped out power to more than half a million people in West Virginia was an "abnormal event, one that is outside of any prediction or forecast and budgets."

    "History has shown that we have gone to the commission in instances like this," Patton said. "Right now we're committed to getting the lights back on. We're aggressively pursuing every avenue to do that. We haven't focused on the cost recovery."

    West Virginia is benefiting from energy deregulation laws that started with natural gas deregulation and have since moved on to electricity. Several programs have become available to help residents in their decision to switch energy providers as they look for lower rates.