Private utility customers are protected | Letter to the editor

Private utility customers are protected

To the editor:

Citizen oversight is meaningless for public utilities. This is in strong evidence given runaway power rates for the San Juan County public utility OPALCO, and a citizen lawsuit against Jefferson County PUD condemning its secret “executive” meetings.

Delyle Ellefson’s Nov. 25 letter compares PSE’s rates to the rates that OPALCO. He complains that the energy rate he pays to PSE — per kilowatt-hour — is “consistently around 10 percent higher” than the rate he pays to OPALCO.

What Mr. Ellefson doesn’t say, however, is that OPALCO saddles its customers with a massively regressive rate design. All residential users, including low-usage customers such as poorer households, get hit with a monthly facility charge of $40.54 — a charge that exceeds PSE’s equivalent charge by well over 400 percent. This OPALCO facility charge is projected to be $78 per month by 2019, largely due to significant costs for undergrounding. That facility charge is additional to any power usage. Oversight by the WUTC would never allow such significant and regressive increases.

Further, OPALCO charges a preferential lower energy rate to its high-usage customers. This low rate does not encourage energy conservation.

Unlike OPALCO, PSE doesn’t punish its low-usage customers with an exorbitant facility charge. And unlike OPALCO, PSE promotes conservation with an energy rate that goes up as consumption goes up. Unlike JPUD, there are no secret rate meetings before the WUTC.

Let’s stick with PSE and its progressive rates. The WUTC only oversees three private electric utilities, and they do protect PSE customers.

BOB JAYNE

Crystal Springs

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