CLP participated as a party to the Central Hudson-Fortis rate case--an extraordinary commitment of time and energy by a group of volunteers for a process that involved a steady stream of meetings in Albany spanning more than a year and a half. Yesterday, the process came to a close with the PSC’s Order approving the next three-year rate plan. This was the first rate case since the Public Service Commission (PSC) instituted its Reform the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding. It was also the first rate case since Central Hudson, during the proceeding that led to its takeover by Fortis in 2013, had agreed to hold rates steady for two years. CLP became involved in the rate case to better understand the process, and to speak up for the interests of our communities. CLP was the only community organization that was a party to the proceeding, which was highly technical and dominated by paid staff and legal representatives from the utilities and industry.
A new component of this rate case was the creation of a separate “REV Demonstration Collaborative” that worked over the course of several months to develop demonstration projects supporting REV goals. CLP proposed an Ulster County Community Choice Aggregation Project, which was further developed through the Collaborative, and ended up being one of six demonstration projects recommended by the Collaborative and presented by Central Hudson to the Public Service Commission in a May 1 report. Unfortunately, around the same time, the rules for REV Demonstration Projects were changed with little notice to the parties, and after months of work on these projects. The new rules specifically excluded third-party projects in favor of utility projects that resulted in “new revenue streams” for utilities.
In the end, CLP did not sign on to the Joint Proposal. We instead submitted a Statement on the Joint Proposal outlining our observations and concerns. CLP can boast of having achieved one positive outcome for ratepayers: the PSC Order agreed with CLP that the utility’s proposal to increased fixed charges to ratepayers would only discourage people from saving energy, while guaranteeing that utility bills stay high. Ratepayers have no way of reducing the fixed charges, which make up as much as half of our bills. Citing CLP’s comments, the PSC required this change after the Joint Proposal was signed by the parties--an unusual achievement, although unfortunately it does not reduce the total amount of our bills. Instead, the rate increase shifts to the volumetric portion of the bill, which ratepayers can better control through conservation and improved efficiency.