Alabama PSC’s Gift List: Power Company “Nice,” Alabamians “Naughty”?

Alabama PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh, ready for the December 12 meeting.

Every year on the second Tuesday in December, the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) holds a public meeting about Alabama Power’s rate structure and the cost impacts of keeping coal-fired power plants burning. If this meeting represented the PSC’s holiday gifts, it’s easy to see who the favorite child is… and it isn’t the bill-paying public.

The Commission gives the bulk of the all-day meeting to Alabama Power to present and take questions from officials, while the rest of us get as little as 45 minutes (at the very end of the morning and afternoon sessions) to ask questions. In all that time, the Commission still doesn’t require Alabama Power to demonstrate consideration of alternative actions to the expensive ones it chose.  It’s not a decision-making meeting; the rates are generally approved the week before.

And that’s just a stocking stuffer compared to the real present: The Commission has let Alabama Power earn a profit upwards of 13 percent, far higher than most other electric utilities. In other words, for every hundred dollars they spend on providing electricity, including upgrading outdated coal plants, they get over $113 back from customers. I’d put that kind of gift on my list if I could!

For the last five years, we’ve covered this December meeting to make sure the Alabama public knows what kind of service they get from their elected Public Service Commission. Check out our blogs from 2016, 2014, and 2013 to see why we’re skeptical that PSC President “Santa” Twinkle Cavanaugh has Alabama customers on her “nice” list.

Allowing Alabama Power to continue refurbishing coal-fired power plants – to the tune of $4 billion over several years – became further suspect earlier this fall, when the Union of Concerned Scientists released “A Dwindling Role for Coal.” The report showed that all but one coal-fired power plant in Alabama was not economically competitive with natural gas, and in fact many compared unfavorably with the price of wind energy. We explored the Southeastern implications of the report on this blog.

This year, the “gifts” will be doled out on December 12. The meeting on recovering costs incurred by making upgrades to power plants is from 9:30am until lunch, and the meeting regarding basic rates begins at 2pm. They take place at the Carl L. Evans Chief Administrative Law Judge Hearing Complex, Room 900 of the RSA Union Building at 100 North Union Street, Montgomery, Alabama and are open to the public.

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