- Austin Energy has proposed doubling an Energy Efficiency Service charge paid by residential customers each month, arguing changes are necessary because commercial customers are paying more than their fair share, the Austin Monitor reports.
- The idea to increase the monthly charge was floated in the utility's rebuttal to the independent consumer advocate's own rate proposals, according to the Austin Monitor.
- The city of Austin is examining Austin Energy’s base electric rates through an in-depth cost of service study and independent public rate review process. Utility staff has recommended reducing revenues by $17.4 million and a 2.8% base rate decrease, representing a 1.4% decrease overall.
The independent consumer advocate in Austin Energy's rate case is calling foul, saying the utility has changed its proposal midstream—pushing to raise by $2 to $4 a monthly efficiency fee paid for by consumers.
While the utility argues that commercial ratepayers are shouldering too much of the burden, the consumer advocate says they are also benefiting from the program. According to the utility, commercial customers make up about two-thirds of system demand but receive less than half of efficiency rebates.
But according to John Coffman, who leads the consumer advocate team, industrial consumers do benefit from system savings even when they are not the ones taking advantage of efficiency rebates.
“The benefit of energy efficiency programs is that it helps the utility delay or avoid building new power plants,” Coffman told the Austin Monitor. “In many instances, paying for energy efficiency programs is extremely more cost-effective than building a new power plant.”
Austin Energy last adjusted its base rates using 2009 data, and any new changes are expected to begin in 2017.
"The utility recommends changes that move many commercial classes closer to the cost of service, while keeping total residential revenues at their current level," according to a synopsis of the staff proposal. "Any individual customer could see an increase or decrease on their electric bills."
The utility is also recommending changes to the current summer/winter differential in base rates, pushing for a single, year-round energy rate. The change would help reduce burdens on customers who are "financially challenged by higher summer rates," the utility said.