Consumers already jarred by high food, gasoline and heating oil prices in many states now face another financial burden: skyrocketing electricity bills.
WASHINGTON — Around the country, electric utilities’ requests for rate increases have spiked in recent weeks, stemming from high-priced fuels such as coal and natural gas that are used to generate power. Those fuel price hikes — blamed on an increase in worldwide energy demand — are being passed on to ratepayers.

In West Virginia, the state’s largest natural gas utility is asking for a 42 percent rate increase. In Virginia, millions of Dominion Virginia Power customers are seeing their bills rise an average of 18 percent, the largest one-time rate hike there in three decades. And Ohio’s largest electric utility is seeking a 15 percent rate increase annually for the next three years because of high coal prices and a new state environmental law governing emissions that will cost the company money, a spokesman says.

“There’s no question that rising fuel prices have been driving utility bills higher,” said Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

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