Feb. 28, 2013 06:38

The Alliance for Affordable Energy, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, is tearing into the Public Service Commission over its vote to reverse a statewide energy conservation program the PSC had already approved.

The Alliance for Affordable Energy, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, is tearing into the Public Service Commission over its vote to reverse a statewide energy conservation program the PSC had already approved.

On Thursday the group released the following response to the PSC vote:

The energy efficiency rules were good rules. They were not aggressive, nor innovative. They didn't need to be. There was no reason to recreate the wheel when forty-six other states and the City of New Orleans had already figured it out. Over 20 participants including large industrial users, utilities, private citizens and public nonprofits spent over three years representing thousands of man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars on this docket in good faith, and the outcome was positive.

"What happened today is a travesty and represents a government out of control," says Casey DeMoss Roberts, executive director for the Alliance for Affordable Energy. "The Louisiana Public Service Commission took the unprecedented step of reversing itself for no other reason than they got a new commissioner. Rehearing an issue this way is a slippery slope and sends a scary signal to business interests. Who would invest big dollars in a state with an indecisive regulatory body?"

The issue was pushed to the last item on the commission's agenda today but though close to 20 people came to the LPSC meeting to speak on behalf of energy efficiency, Commissioner Skrmetta refused to let the public speak.  The lack of public comment on such a popular docket was unprecedented.

There is a significant cost to ratepayers for inaction. The net cost savings to the utility will be $14.3 million and this savings will be passed to all ratepayers. Which means after the program pays for itself it will generate $14.3 million in savings. Without the program, the utility will have to purchase $14.3 worth of electricity. For participating customers, the total is $69 million which includes the customer's own investment.

"The decision to void the Energy Efficiency Rules passed in December is a major step backwards for Louisiana," notes Jordan Macha, Gulf States Representative with the Sierra Club. "This money-saving measure would provide long-term benefits for everyone - ratepayers, working families, small businesses and industry alike. By employing efficiency measures, we reduce our need for new, costly construction and fully utilize the energy we have already produced."

Commissioner Skrmetta claimed that he directed staff to look at Missouri's energy efficiency rule but that they did not comply with his directive. The staff and consultant did complete a study on Missouri's Rule and found it to be deficient. In a 2012 national study on energy efficiency Missouri was ranked 43rd in the US - tied with Louisiana on their energy efficiency performance. The LPSC staff and consultant followed Arkansas' model because of its success and the states share a similar climate and utility companies.

"Because of the decision today, Louisiana ratepayers will pay an additional $80 million in higher energy bills," said Forest Wright, regulatory policy director for the AAE.  "Today's decision shows a shocking lack of comprehension for the technical work of the Commission and a failure to conduct the most important duty of its job, which is to serve the public interest."

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