It’s time for Alabama to have a state energy plan
by our readers
Jan 09, 2013 | 2576 views |  0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The League of Women Voters of Alabama appreciates the role of the Public Service Commission in safeguarding Alabamians’ interests in regulating our three investor-owned utilities. Our average residential electricity bills in 2011 were second only to Hawaii, and our natural gas prices were twice those in our similarly sized neighboring states, Georgia and Mississippi.

Consumers served by our investor-owned utilities pay them a much higher profit for shareholders than the average allowed by PSCs in other states. Our regulated electricity and gas utilities are guaranteed between 13.0 percent and 14.5 percent return on common equity and have been since 1982, as other electric utilities’ average returns have been lowered with the changing times — from 12.62 percent in 1990 to an average of 10.18 percent in 2012.

Several questions have been raised in the press recently regarding Alabama’s higher natural gas transportation tariff charges, individual and business utility rates, and operation and maintenance expenditures as compared to our neighbors. These differences may be appropriate, but residents of Alabama have had no way of knowing.

Questions have also been raised regarding the accessibility of gas utility “books,” and whether and by what means consumer involvement on a regular and formal, as well as informal, basis should be increased.

We commend Commissioner Jeremy Dunn’s reported proposal that the PSC hold a formal public hearing on utility rates, ending the 30-year exclusion of interested parties from access to and involvement in decisions about our electricity and natural gas prices and plans. We urge the new commission under President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh’s leadership to choose to shine more light on the PSC process. You have the opportunity, if not the obligation, to improve Alabamians’ accessibility and participation in utility planning and rate setting.

Finally, we encourage the PSC members and all Alabamians to participate in 2013 with the Energy Division of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs in developing our first comprehensive state energy plan.

Kathryn Byrd
League of Women Voters of Alabama
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