By John Cheves | Lexington Herald-Leader

Electric bills are going up again across Kentucky. The Kentucky Public Service Commission announced that it had approved rate hikes for Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas & Electric. Both companies are subsidiaries of PPL Corp., headquartered in Allentown, Pa., which last year reported a 60% increase in annual earnings, up to $1.83 billion for 2018.

The new rates took effect Wednesday. The companies were last awarded base rate increases in June 2017.

Under an agreement approved by the PSC, KU will get to raise the base rate portion of its monthly bills for a typical residential customer by about $4.27, increasing its average base bill from $115.30 to $119.57. KU customers also will see “a slight increase in the electric usage charge,” the PSC said in a statement.

KU will collect an additional $55.88 million in annual revenue because of the rate hike, the PSC said, but that’s less than half of the $112.46 million the company originally requested with even larger price increases that the PSC said it denied.

KU has about 553,000 electric customers in 77 counties across Kentucky, including Lexington and its suburbs.

LG&E has about 411,000 electric customers in nine counties in the Louisville area and 326,000 natural gas customers in 17 counties. Under its own agreement approved by the PSC, LG&E will increase average base bills for electricity from $98.28 to $98.55 a month for residential customers, and increase average base bills for natural gas from $35.95 to $39.65 a month for residential customers.

LG&E’s base rate electric revenue will increase by about $2.1 million a year and its natural gas revenue will increase by about $18.64 million a year.

KU and LG&E applied for rate increases in September 2018, citing increased operating costs, including investments made to improve reliability and safety, the PSC said. The companies also said they had to maintain returns for their shareholders and investors. The PSC said the deal announced Tuesday represented a “fair, just and reasonable” compromise settlement with the Office of the Kentucky Attorney General and other intervening parties.

The three-member PSC regulates the state’s utilities. The current commissioners, all appointed by Gov. Matt Bevin, are former energy industry lawyer Michael J. Schmitt, whose past clients include Abarta Oil & Gas, Booth Energy Group, and EQT Resources Inc.; entrepreneur and former U.S. Steel manager Robert Cicero; and Talina R. Mathews, who previously served the PSC as a policy adviser and as staff economist.