In a bizarre reversal last Wednesday, the Louisiana Public Service Commission repealed the energy efficiency rules they had just passed in December, thereby undoing their first and only step toward saving customers money through efficiency.
The impetus for the rollback of existing regulations?
- Retirement of a Commissioner supportive of the policy;
- A new Commission Chairman inclined to use his power to upend established law; and
- A newly elected Commissioner who was concerned that a grocery store with an $18,000 bill might have to pay up to $98 in energy efficiency charges (a 0.5% bill impact).
Nevermind that expenditures on energy efficiency programs displace higher cost power supply resulting in lower bills for all customers, even those who don’t participate in the programs. Nevermind that energy efficiency is inherently a local job creator, and reduces overall utility system costs. Instead, Commissioners Angelle, Holloway, and Skrmetta voted to keep Louisiana ranked 43rd in the US on energy efficiency.
This unprecedented vote to overturn the energy efficiency regulations was made even more surprising for parties in the docket because Chairman Skrmetta had the topic added to the agenda on Friday afternoon, leaving just two business days before the Wednesday vote. Further, he used his power to prohibit public comment at the meeting which, according to Commissioner Boissiere, “was an insult to everyone in Louisiana“. The December decision to pass the rule was a process that had been underway since 2009. For Skrmetta to say, “Now we’re going to go back, we’re going to start over and we’re going to get it done the right way… “ perhaps shows his lack of awareness of the time and effort that went into creating these rules. We look forward to hearing what he will offer as process improvements to get things done in what he considers the right way.
It is surprising that the Commission would make this move for a number of reasons. First, it is widely recognized that regulatory instability is unattractive and counterproductive for businesses. Second, the Commission had already initiated implementation of the rules by scheduling a technical conference for utilities and stakeholders on March 21 to discuss the Energy Efficiency “Quick Start” process. Finally, in the utilities most recent round of comments, while they had some discrepancies with the proposed rule, Entergy, Atmos Energy, Southwestern Electric Power Company, and Centerpoint did not suggest that the rules should be overturned or eliminated. In the South, the utilities, not the elected representatives are often the barrier to energy efficiency adoption. Not in Louisiana.
The next Commission open session date is scheduled for March 20, and there are a variety of actions you can take if you live in Louisiana to let your Commissioner know that you care about efficiency:
- Call or write a letter to Commissioners Boissiere and Campbell and thank them for their leadership on energy efficiency and continued support of the energy efficiency docket.
- Call or write a letter to Commissioners Skrmetta, Angelle, and Holloway urging them to reconsider providing support for the efficiency rules.
- Write a letter to the editor for your local paper.
- Contact the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a Louisiana non-profit that advocates for fair, affordable, environmental responsible a, community based energy policies for Louisiana and the nation.
This blog was co-authored by Forest Bradley-Wright, Director of Regulatory Policy. Forest can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 504-208-9761.
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