AUSenergy News Update 07/07/2015
Jul 7, 2015

In today’s AUSenergy News Update: California mandates major residential electric rate reform, ConEd proposes to bundle services, and Gas plant new milestone for NE Minnesota power.

California regulators mandate major residential electric rate reform

Summary: This past Friday, the California Public Utilities Commission passed a major residential electric rate reform plan, voting unanimously to change the state’s existing four-tiered rate structure to a two-tiered structure with a 25% cost difference between the two. The new rate plan for residential customers will also include a “super-user electric surcharge” that will charge customers extra if they use more than 400% of the average California resident’s monthly electricity consumption.

AUS Comment: We agree with solar and efficiency advocates that the old four-tiered plan, where high-demand customers were charged a higher rate, produced a higher incentive for those high-use customers to seek to lower their energy cost through rooftop solar or efficiency upgrades. However, we also agree with the commission’s direction that utilities begin to focus more on developing time-of-use rates meant to encourage energy use at times other than peak hours.

Life under REV: ConEd Proposes to Bundle Services from Utility

Summary: Consolidated Edison has filed several “Reforming the Energy Vision” products, and one of the projects, its CONnectED Homes Platform, envisions the utility bundling and reselling value-added services to customers. A current demonstration project, proposed to last through 2017, is limited to residential customers in Brooklyn and Westchester, NY. Under the program, ConEdison will reach out to customers with personalized offers for energy products/services, via direct mail, email and bill inserts.

AUS Comment: We believe this is a smart move on ConEd’s part, to start looking at new ways to generate revenue, and slowly move away from the current model that is stuck in the past; supporting the need for high energy use alone to produce revenue.

Gas plant marks milestone for NE Minnesota power

Summary: Last month, Minnesota Power officials converted its 110-megawatt Laskin Energy Center in Hoyt Lakes, Minn., from coal to natural gas as part of the utility’s plan to generate less power from coal and more from renewables and natural gas. Just a decade ago Minnesota Power produced 95 percent of its power from coal; now that’s down to 75 percent.

AUS Comment: It’s great that Minnesota’s coal plants are being phased out, as part of the utility’s push to meet stricter environmental regulations. However, natural gas – as plentiful as it now is, is still NOT a renewable energy and needs to be just part of a greater plan that includes renewable energy from multiple sources; i.e. bioenergy, solar, geothermal and wind.

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