Thursday, August 21, 2014

Anti-Consumer Utility Consumer Counselor's Office Sides Against Consumers Again

A long time ago, someone told me that the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor was in bed with the public utility companies as much as the commissioners and staff. In my many years observing their actions, nothing has disabused me of that notion. So it should come as no surprise that the office which supposedly represents consumers would agree that electric utility customers of IPL should pay to subsidize a foreign-owned company to make electric cars available for rent to out-of-town visitors looking for time to kill since that represents the lion's share of people who would bother to rent one of the cars. From the IBJ:
Indianapolis Power & Light Co. customers would see less of a rate hike for an electric car-sharing program under a settlement agreement negotiated by the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor.
The cost per month for a typical residence would be 28 cents, rather than 44 cents, the OUCC said in a press release about the settlement agreement, filed Thursday with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.
IPL is seeking regulators’ permission to bill ratepayers for $16 million in costs associated with extending lines and installing charging stations for a proposed car-sharing service by BlueIndy, a subsidiary of France-based Bollore Group.
BlueIndy has an exclusive agreement with the city of Indianapolis to provide the car-sharing service, utilizing on-street parking spaces. Indiana Utility Consumer Counselor David Stippler opposed the rate hike, saying it fell outside the scope of costs that state law allows IPL to charge to ratepayers.
“We have taken into account the risks of litigation and the concessions the OUCC was able to obtain for the benefit of IPL ratepayers from the city and IPL following intensive negotiations,” Stippler said Thursday in a prepared statement.
Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, said his group continues to oppose allowing IPL to bill its customers for a service that will be used by a relative few.
“This settlement does not change the fact that the captive ratepayers of IPL are being forced to subsidize a French multibillion-dollar corporation for a project that has nothing to do with providing electric service,” Olson said.
Some people might say, hey, it's only a little more than a quarter a month, what's the big deal? That's not the point. It is not the responsibility of electricity consumers to pay so a private company can make money renting out electric cars. Mayor Ballard has already put Indianapolis taxpayers on the hook to pay millions of dollars to the private operator over the life of a long-term agreement by reimbursing the private operator of our parking meter assets for the lost revenues it will sustain from metered spaces taken up by the private electric car operator. A private electric car operator in Columbus, Ohio provides the exact same service to that city's residents without requiring a single dollar in public subsidies. Only in Indianapolis. Remember those three words because it repeats itself over and over again.

The drill here was no different than we see in other rate requests before the IURC. The utility always request about twice as much as it really needs to get, knowing that the OUCC will argue for something less, and the two parties will agree to a figure somewhere in between so it looks like both sides got something they wanted when, in fact, the OUCC was in the tank with the utility all along. You should have absolutely no respect for the OUCC. This agency doesn't represent consumer interests by any stretch of the imagination. The people who work for the OUCC should hold their heads in shame at how they sell out utility consumers every day, but they won't because they only got their jobs because someone in the utility sector put them there in the first place to do their bidding for them.


Anonymous said...

How is it fair to IPL customers that we subsidize the airport's solar array? Since the airports electricity is more expensive to produce IPL customers are stuck paying the overage.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I don't disagree. Ditto the subsidies IPL is paying to the Hulman-George family for their useless solar farm next to their Speedway after they bribed state lawmakers and Gov. Pence into giving them $100 million of our taxpayer dollars for supposed improvements to their privately-owned Speedway.

Anonymous said...

The airport solor panels or Ballards GOOFY electric cars taking PRIME PARKING AWAY FROM DOWNTOWN????

Geeezzzzz. Stupid. Give us 2 more bike lanes on Broad Ripple Ave., and 5 more on Washington ST and a few more Cricket fields...the developers will be happy, BALLARD WILL BENEFIT, and we get stuck!

Rick Smith said...

Honest to Goodness Indiana!

Anonymous said...

As each proposal gets more outrageous than the previous one, I always have a smidgen of hope that they won't be able to pull of this taxpayer / ratepayer / citizen robbery again. So, I write my letters and contact all the appropriate people and wait for the public revolt that never comes.

Well, I still can't imagine that anyone would fall for the financial machinations and poor siting proposal associated with the justice center. It is just too outrageous for words!