In recent years I have intervened in several cases involving Delmarva Power‘s rate increase requests filed before the Public Service Commission. The process is cumbersome and complex; it requires resources and time that is not always available to me. Unfortunately without me, the public, the ratepayers, and my constituents interests have been inadequately represented in these proceedings. My obligation and responsibility as an elected representative is to ensure some fairness in both the discussions and decisions rendered.
The most recent filing in which I have intervened is identified as PSC Docket # 11-528 and involves a request for rate increases which includes recovery of depreciation values by Delmarva for obsolete meters that have been replaced with “smart-meters” for Delmarva residential customers. I, as the people’s representative, objected to any ratepayer funding for any new technology costs such as advanced metering purchase and installation… simply because… the economic benefit from these devices rests solely with the utility. I have adamantly opposed any recovery of “lost” depreciation for any obsolete equipment that is removed from service especially since there has been no substantiated breakdown of any economic loss to the utility! And, absolutely no justification for any single ratepayer to subsidize this company’s loss. Please read the most excellent News Journal article in the business section of Sunday’s (Oct. 21st) paper for its startling exposure.
The odd request by this utility has caused me to defend all ratepayers against a system that has major flaws which can obstruct honest and fair due process. One identifiable flaw has been the palpable lack of enthusiasm from those entities required by law to represent the consumer! This leaves the average ratepayer at a huge disadvantage.
During the “evidentiary hearing” I was given the privilege to represent ratepayers and to cross examine the witnesses from DP&L, PSC staff and the Public Advocates office. I expended great effort to determine how the $25 million in lost depreciation value was calculated. I asked how this numerical value was determined.., particularly when noted that the average age of a discarded meter was 22 years yet the total life-expectancy was only 30 years. Over 73% of the life-expectancy had already been consumed and that legally should be prorated into any calculation. I also requested the original equipment costs of 22 years ago.
Objections to my cross-examination were raised by both the attorneys’ for Delmarva Power and the Public Advocates office. They wrongly asserted that it was already in evidence admitted. Although my queries were made in a legitimate attempt to ascertain vital information, the objections were sustained by the Hearing Officer. I also asked for the amount of recovered equipment costs garnered from ratepayers over that 22 year span and the amount recovered during that time-span from “depreciation” tax credit recovery and I was rebuffed with the same objections.
To date there is no valid, statistical accumulation of numbers which justify any $25 million recovery of lost depreciation revenue owed to Delmarva Power… Its ratepayers have already paid many times over the cost of those meters in the prior 22 years. Many times. The approval process has too many flaws and all of them must be addressed by me, and my colleagues, in Dover beginning this upcoming January. Trust me. I will be working to assure corrective action is moving forward.
The harm in allowing Delmarva to recover unproven and unsubstantiated expenses from the ratepayers is a matter of immediate concern and should be denied by the PSC Commissioners. Any action short of total relief from this asking amounts to an abdication of the government’s obligation to ensure fairness for its citizens.