State utility regulators Wednesday turned back an effort to single out the costs of an energy efficiency program on monthly electric bills.
The controversial pilot program would allow consumers to receive credits and rebates for purchasing some appliances and for performing some structural renovations that would use energy more efficiently, thereby lower monthly utility bills.
But the pilot program has a cost that the Louisiana Public Service Commission has allowed utility companies to recoup from their customers.
The five elected members of the PSC voted 3-2 against detailing those costs as a line item on monthly bills.
PSC Chairman Eric Skrmetta, of Metairie, argued that all ratepayers would have to pay for “energy efficiency” services that only a few customers use.
He asked that PSC staff develop a mechanism to make “recipients of ratepayer funds accountable for the money they receive and to make the cost of the energy efficiency program a transparent line item charge.” The directive would add a line item to the state’s 2 million monthly electric bills detailing “any and all costs collected from ratepayers as a result of the Commission’s Energy Efficiency rules.” The monthly bills of many utility companies currently include line-item designations that specifically outline various costs, such as restoring the lights after a particular hurricane.
Forest Bradley-Wright, representing the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a New Orleans-based consumer group, said it was unfair to single out an issue “that you’re unhappy with because the vote didn’t go your way.”
Wright said a number of other expenses are added to customer’s bills without a special line-item. For instance, Entergy Louisiana LLC abandoned construction on a generating plant at the Little Gypsy facility near LaPlace. That decision, made because the project proved less cost effective than originally planned, requires Entergy’s residential customers to pay 78 cents more each month, but those costs are not specifically identified with line-item on monthly bills, he said.
“Ultimately the public has to pay for commission decisions, good or bad,” Wright said.
PSC Commissioner Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish, suggested that regulators should disclose all the costs going into customer bills, including executive pay and perks.
Commissioners Lambert Boissiere III, of New Orleans, Campbell and Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill, voted against adding the line item to monthly bills.
Chairman Skrmetta, of Metairie, and Commissioner Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, voted for the addition.
“It fails,” Skrmetta said. “The public will now not know what it costs.”