Everybody's got an opinion on electric competition, and they're dying to be asked.
Last year the Colorado Public Utilities Commission opened Docket No. 96Q-313E, In the Matter of the Inquiry Into Electric Utility Industry Restructuring. Then, after weighing several options, and rather than preempt the policy discussion, the PUC mailed a 26-page questionnaire to 360 people identified as "having an interest" in electric utility issues, including investor-owned electric utilities, rural electric cooperatives, municipal utilities and others.
What it learned could fill a book ....
On reaching Utopia ...
"There is a fine thread which runs through the questionnaire which appears to seek our view on what we can best to for mankind and how to construct utopia. As isolated and naive as we may be, the concept of gathering ideas on constructing zoning laws and a road plan for the Holy City seem to be somewhat beyond our reach."
(em White River Electric Association
The small customer ...
"In the short term it is likely that residential customers will pay higher rates."
(em Denver Water Department
Stranded investment ...
"Stranded costs are a particularly difficult problem for the cooperatives ... because the ratepayers and the owners are one and the same. There is no ability to let the stockholders 'eat' the stranded investment." (em Y-W Electric Association
Q. Do you believe that there is any stranded investment cost for Colorado utilities?
A. "Yes. I CAN SEE POWER PLANTS, WHICH I ASSUME ARE NOT FULLY PAID FOR, OUTSIDE MY WINDOW." (em Coastal Electric Services Co.
On Mergers ...
"The danger, which is already apparent with just the threat of restructuring, is that large utilities will merge together across the country (Colorado included) to form a few gargantuan utilities that will completely drive out all small utilities and independent power producers. This is completely contrary to the aim of restructuring." (em SciTech Communications
On Fairness ...
Q. Are there specific consumer classes ... [that] may be put at special risk due to potential increases in retail electric rates?
A. "I thought that the idea was to achieve lower rates, not increase." (em United Power
Real-time meters ...
Q. Are existing metering systems capable of meeting the requirements imposed by retail generation and competition?
A. "Yes. Existing metering systems can initially be used in a retail customer choice environment. It may be unnecessary to require each customer to have real time meters especially if power merchants are licensed to aggregate the loads of smaller customers. Given the retail choice experiments in this country and the open generation markets off-shore in other countries, meter technology is continually advancing. It will be in a suppliers' interests to ensure that appropriate metering is available to provide the services demanded by their customers."
(em Brubaker & Associates
On change ...
"[R]adical change in the retail electric industry in Colorado is not coming from the customers dissatisfied with rates or service, but it is being advanced by 'market ideologues' who preach the gospel that competitive markets will always ... work the best for consumers. Coalition members from rural areas of the state are especially suspicious of these claims because they have not seen benefits, only harm, from the deregulation of other industries. They are particularly concerned that the voices of the rural communities are being ignored in all the rhetoric surrounding the catchy phrase of 'consumer choice.'"
(em Retail Wheeling Coalition
On Unbundling ...
Q. Should electric utilities .... unbundle rates and charges for the various components of distribution service, such as meter reading, billing, facility charges and consumer service, etc.?
A. "We are not running a delicatessen, but an integrated electric utility. United Airlines does not bill mechanic's time and aircraft depreciation ... or event peanuts." (em White River
Providers of last resort ...
Q. Would ... retail generation competition require ... a so-called "provider of last resort" to provide full service to consumers who do not, or cannot, select [a] provider of their choice?
A. "Yes. This is like wanting total competition and saying it will reduce rates and at the same time include a rate cap. If competition is so great and everyone is clamoring to provide service, why do you need a provider of last resort? I'll answer my own question - because providers will cherry-pick loads. There will only be competition for lucrative loads."
(em Intermountain Rural Electric Association
On Privacy ...
Q. What type of consumer information should the local distribution company be required to make available to competitive energy service providers in a competitive market?
A. "Customer name, customer volumes and usage, credit risk."
(em Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States
Pricing information ...
Q. How can it be assured that timely and accurate information concerning available services and products ... is made available to all consumers?
A. "Consumers will force this to happen, let them!"
(em Coors Beer
A. "Only the most sophisticated customers, typically the large customers, will have the wherewithal to effectively participate. In short, for all other individual consumers, no one has a clue."
(em Colorado Rural Electric Association
Keeping the lights on ...
"If, as retail wheeling proponents claim, the price of electricity decreases 30% - 40%, what incentive will there be for anyone to ever turn off their lights?"
(em Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association
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