In a meeting that boiled over with testy exchanges and chanting crowds, Louisiana utility regulators adopted a long-awaited energy efficiency program they say will bring accountability to utility companies and stop them from charging customers for power they don’t use, reports Louisiana Illuminator.
The Louisiana Public Service Commission voted 3-2 on an energy efficiency resource standards policy a consultant has worked on for 13 years at a cost of more than a half-million dollars.
One Republican commissioner, Craig Greene of Baton Rouge, and two Democrats, Foster Campbell of Bossier City and Davanté Lewis of Baton Rouge, voted for the new standards. Eric Skrmetta of Metairie and Mike Francis of Crowley, both Republicans, voted against it.
Greene spearheaded the effort to identify a new framework that uses a third-party administrator to oversee the program. He also introduced an amendment to the policy that removes the ability for utilities to collect so-called “ghost charges” from their customers, though customers will still foot the bill for the EERS program itself.
The policy requires utilities under the commission’s jurisdiction, such as Entergy, Cleco, Swepco and others, to meet certain energy savings targets each year. For instance, they can accomplish this with localized upgrades such as fixing inefficient homes with new insulation or making larger, systemwide upgrades to the power grid.
The utilities pay for it with little-known energy efficiency fees they’ve been charging their customers for years. Entergy Louisiana customers can find those fees on their monthly statements billed as “Rider EECR-QS” and “Rider EECR-PE.”
Even though customers have been paying those fees, the utility companies lobbied the commission hard to keep a provision that allowed them to tack on additional charges to make up for profits they miss out on when their customers no longer waste electricity. In other words, customers would have had to pay fees for both the EERS program and for electricity they never used. Greene and other supporters of the new program refer to those as “ghost charges.”
Read the full story about the new policy from Louisiana Illuminator.