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2009 Regulator's Forum: Walking A Tightrope

The economy forces tough decisions.

Fortnightly Magazine - November 2009

areas of leakage and waste and provides education to help customers make behavioral changes to continue further electricity reductions. Other campaigns the department has employed include “Wait until 8pm,” which encourages customers to run high-demand appliances such as air conditioners, washers and dryers [in off-peak hours] and to change their traditional light bulbs to more energy-efficient CFL lighting. The department takes great care to ensure that our energy efficiency and conservation programs are cost effective and adding value to ratepayers.

One of the benefits of electric restructuring in Connecticut has been the influx of electric suppliers. Customers are seeing their electric bills drop 10 percent or more by changing from their traditional electric distribution company to a new licensed electric supplier for the electric generation portion of their utility services.

Everett, Georgia: The commission allows utilities recovery of educational advertising to inform customers how to control their energy costs. The commission encourages utilities to perform energy audits at the customer’s request. The commission has also approved several electric demand-side management (DSM) programs and oversees an ongoing stakeholder group charged with further development of cost-effective demand-side programs.

Box, Illinois: The commission is committed to keeping the public abreast of changes taking place in the industry. We’ve been fortunate in Illinois that many utilities have taken the initiative to reach out to customers. For example, most of the major utilities in Illinois have very useful information available to customers on the internet. This typically includes access to tariff and pricing information, frequently asked questions and tips on conserving energy. In addition to providing customer-specific information on the internet, several utilities provide much of the same information and analysis to residential customers via telephone. We encourage utilities to educate and assist their customers and expect that all reasonable costs associated with such programs should be recovered. Finally, Illinois electric utilities have real-time pricing tariffs that I believe have the potential to benefit many customers including residential customers. While I understand that residential customers may be hesitant to try real-time pricing in the short-run, these programs can produce reduced electric bills for customers willing to modify their behavior.

Anthony, Oklahoma: Oklahoma has implemented new [DSM] rules to require natural gas and electric utilities to promote efficient customer use of these important resources. These programs call for customer education that includes a school-based approach, as well as residential weatherization and efficiency incentives. The rules also call for customized plans for industrial and commercial customers. These plans were implemented in 2008 and updates were filed in September 2009. In addition, the commission has authorized smart-grid and smart-meter pilot programs. When utilized in conjunction with time-of-use rates, these programs encourage customers to shift electric usage away from peak hours of the day. Reducing overall usage and modifying consumer usage patterns can lead to substantial savings for both the utility and its customers.

Beyer, Oregon: The major electric utilities assess a public purpose charge on each bill, some of which supports the Energy Trust of Oregon. The Energy Trust is the designated organization that works with utilities to assist customers