Not in the Public’s Interest
By Rep. Jon Conrad
“I can’t afford this” was the sentiment on display in Casper the evening of Aug. 24 at the Public Service Commission’s hearing on Rocky Mountain Power’s (RMP) proposed electric rate increases – a hearing that went two hours beyond its scheduled time and saw estimates of 200 people expressing their frustration, and in many instances, desperation.
It was also reiterated the next day at the Joint Corporations Committee hearing in Douglas, and it’s what I commonly hear from people in my district and across Wyoming.
I traveled to Casper and Douglas to oppose RMP’s proposals because my phone hasn’t stopped ringing since spring when these rate increases were announced.
Wyoming families are at a breaking point. Rate increases are supposed to be “just and reasonable.” I believe RMP’s proposed increases are neither just, nor reasonable.
RMP is seeking two rate increases.
The energy cost adjustment mechanism (ECAM) is seeking to raise rates an average of 7.4 percent or $50.3 million for energy cost overruns. The general rate increase looks to raise rates an average of 21.6 percent or $140 million.
Combined, the company is asking the Wyoming Public Service Commission (PSC) to authorize an increase of $190 million.
RMP asserts “net power costs” are a major driver in the need to raise rates. The company claims this is due to high coal and natural gas prices. Shockingly, RMP is also asking the PSC for the ability to shift 100 percent of fuel cost overruns onto the customer, instead of sharing in the expense.
Currently, fuel cost overruns are split with customers paying 80 percent and RMP paying 20 percent. Not long ago, the ratio was 70 to 30.
I not only suggested to the PSC to reject RMP’s proposal, but to return to the 70 to 30 ratio. I’ve previously called these rate increases “disappointing,” but it’s more than disappointing. It’s blatantly offensive.
According to a Wall Street Journal article dated Aug. 9, electricity bills are projected to decline because of decreasing coal and natural gas prices. RMP asserts the opposite in their rate cases. Something doesn’t compute.
We’ve repeatedly heard renewable energy will result in lower electric bills. It’s becoming obvious the fuel source may be zero cost, but there is an enormous expense to build out the infrastructure to support renewable energy.
The infrastructure building frenzy may be good for shareholders as RMP looks to capitalize on federal subsidies and green energy policy, but it’s going to cripple Wyoming families and businesses.
Management decisions to accelerate the energy transition and meet aggressive targets from other states have led RMP to buy more power on the open market. This is necessary because the transition to green energy, otherwise known as intermittent power, isn’t as reliable as firm power from coal or natural gas generation.
Management and shareholder decisions have caused this predicament, not Wyoming customers, and this is who should be on the hook to pay the price.
Please join me in saying enough is enough.
RMP’s aggressive transition plans aren’t in the public’s interest. Wyoming can’t afford this increase, be it families or industry.
For more information or to submit comments, contact the Wyoming PSC at 307-777-7427 or email@example.com.
Jon Conrad is a Republican Representative of House District 19. He can be reached by visiting wyoleg.gov.