PUC staff recommends refunds for ratepayers
July 19, 2013
LAS VEGAS (AP) — State regulators are considering whether NV Energy Inc. made too much money last year to warrant a separate assessment that allows it to recoup revenue lost to energy conservation.
Staff at the Public Utilities Commission has joined with the attorney general's Bureau of Consumer Protection in recommending the utility refund about $14.6 million to customers, the Las Vegas Sun reported Friday.
The regulated monopoly has what's called an authorized rate of return, but it's possible it could earn a profit beyond what's allowed by the PUC.
Last year the company reported $322 million in record profits. It also collected $14.6 million in energy efficiency charges —an assessment to recoup revenue lost as customers adopt energy efficiency measures such as more efficient light bulbs or appliances. Law allows "lost sale compensation" under the reasoning that the utility needs the money to maintain its power infrastructure.
"There is much customer frustration at having to provide artificial compensation to utilities for services that are not provided," wrote Dan Jacobsen with the Bureau of Consumer Protection. "Customers would be very frustrated if the company were allowed to retain lost sales compensation based on the company's desire to have even higher profits than authorized."
Jacobsen, in written testimony, argued that Nevada's customers shouldn't have had to pay lost sales compensation in 2012 because the company had record profits; whatever it didn't collect because of customers' energy-efficiency upgrades, it collected by other means to the extent that it earned more than the commission said it could.
"When the company earns more than its authorized rate of return for a certain year, then it has recovered all of its operating costs, the return of investment and more than its authorized rate of return," he wrote.
Refunds for typical residential customers could be about $7.
The commission's own staff has sided with the Bureau of Consumer Protection, arguing in testimony filed Wednesday that customers should get the refund.
A spokesman for the company said the utility does not comment on matters before the PUC.
But the company will have a chance to issue a rebuttal to the Bureau of Consumer Protection on July 31. Then a utilities commission officer will listen to both sides during an Aug. 7 hearing and make a recommendation to the full commission.
After that, the commission will decide whether to adopt, reject or modify the refund proposal.