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Letters to the Editor

Fortnightly Magazine - April 2009

should at least wait until the completion of the demand response pilot program it approved before adopting whole-hog Pepco’s AMI and rate-design wish list.

Once the fundamentals of providing safe, adequate and reliable electric service to consumers are ensured, then a commission-regulator would be positioned to hold a fair and impartial hearing to determine whether some form of AMI and dynamic pricing is in the public interest, and whether, given the economics of the time, D.C. is prepared to pay. After all, the District is staring at a $550 million deficit, and its kWh rate has increased by 95 percent since 2005. Given this, and the fact that D.C. ratepayers are being crushed by extraordinarily high electric bills in 2009, that consumers at every income level have received record numbers of termination notices while experiencing poor quality of service, there should be no final regulatory decision forcing consumers to shoulder the costs of such pretty amazing new stuff at this time.

As the statutory consumer advocate, I cannot and will not, in law or in good conscience, ignore this reality facing our consumers. Frankly, I cannot imagine how any enlightened regulatory agency could.

In sum, it is critical that regulators and advocates, alike, keep their eyes on the prize. In this case, the prize is protecting the interests of overburdened consumers who continue to want the basics first: safe, adequate and reliable service at rates that are reasonable. In these days and times, this means “affordable.”

Elizabeth A. Noël, Esq.
People’s Counsel
District of Columbia

 

California Screamin’

Michael T. Burr certainly is correct regarding the importance of energy and environmental policies in California (see “ California Dreamin ,’” January 2009) . Reducing the impact of energy on the environment has been a major priority. It is also clear there has been apparent success in that energy demand growth has been flat for the past 30 years. What is less obvious is how this happened and what the implications are for the rest of the U.S.

To begin, as Burr points out, California’s manufacturing and processing industries have largely disappeared during the past three decades. This was probably due to a combination of high wage rates, rising taxes and high energy prices. While California may not be concerned about this, it is less likely that the US wants to lose more of its industrial base at this time.

Decoupling as a cause of reduced energy consumption is doubtful. While utilities may have been incented to sell more when they could profit more, there has been no way for them to implement volume based incentives. Rate structures have been flat and sales promotion disallowed for decades. In addition, decoupling mechanisms have almost no impact on average or marginal prices.

It is also questionable that TV ads, bill inserts and other conservation information cause most energy users to consume less. People are busy and energy bills are complicated. The public is less interested in this than energy professionals.

What then is the link between California’s energy programs and its flat energy demand? The likely