Electric rate increase protest is washed out

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:58

    MILFORD - This week’s flooding cancelled a planned meeting to renew the protest against electric rate increases put in place in January by the Pike County Light and Power Company. The meeting, sponsored by the Pike County Chamber of Commerce and the Pike County Commissioners, was designed to pressure state utility regulators, who last week held a new hearing on “spike” rate increases. No rescheduled date for the protest has been announced, a Chamber spokesperson said Tueday. Pike meeting sponsors are hoping that a larger number of affected ratepayers will file formal complaints to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Fewer than 100 have filed to date. On June 22 the commission heard from consumer advocates and industry experts on the issues and possible policy actions that could mitigate potential future significant price increases in electricity prices. “Today is a first step. It will not be the only step. This Commission will continue to address this energy crisis aggressively, responsibly and in a timely manner,” said Commission Chairman Wendell Holland in a statement. “It is up to all of us to prepare now to protect our customers from the brunt of possible price spikes,” he added. “Markets can fail and be manipulated. That’s something we must keep in mind as we move through this process,” Commissioner Bill Shane said in his statement. The commission also received a staff report and recommendations on the spike rate issue last week. That report is available online at http://www.puc.state.pa.us/general/press_releases/press_releases.aspx?ShowPR=1557 Commissioner Kim Pizzingrilli said: “Our hearing today begins our dialogue on this important and complex topic that will require a great deal of consideration and debate. I look forward to working on this matter so as to ensure that the public interest is protected as we transition into a fully competitive market. With that said, today’s testimony, the filed comments and the reply comments, which are due on July 20th, will serve to assist the Commission in addressing these challenges.” Commissioner Terrance Fitzpatrick, who sponsored the motion that initiated this process, said: “Combating potentially significant electricity price increases at the expiration of rate caps approved under electricity restructuring proceedings presents difficult policy choices - choices that will not be any easier if we wait until the reality of higher prices is upon us. By engaging all of the stakeholders in this process, the Commission will have a wide knowledge base to draw from in advance of any possible action. Pennsylvania is in the position of having some additional time to address this important issue for most consumers. By preparing now, this Commission can best fulfill its duty to protect the public interest.” More than 30 parties filed comments with the Commission prior to the hearing regarding ideas to assist in addressing potential significant price increases. The Commission may use the information gathered during this process as a basis for action. Four panels presented testimony during the hearing from the perspective of consumers, utilities, electric generation suppliers and alternative energy interests.