The South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER), will host a round of dialogues with its statewide citizen’s Energy Policy Commission to consider the role of the electric utility in Texas. Will Wynn, former mayor of Austin, and Margaret Keliher, former county Judge of Dallas County, will again co-chair the forum in its second round of meetings.
The diverse and experienced group of individuals, including utility executives, and directors of manufacturers, clean energy service companies, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and current and former public officials, will begin their meetings on December 7 in Houston. A white paper recently released by SPEER, Win-Win Utility Regulation will be used to stimulate dialogue about the ways utilities make money and serve the public interest. During this meeting the commission will also be joined by Laurence Kirsch, of Christensen Associates, the primary author of a report commissioned by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas: Alternative Ratemaking Mechanisms.
“How investor-owned electric utilities are allowed to recover their investments, and expenses, or make a profit, is purely dependent upon a state policy constructed framework” said Bob King, CEO of SPEER, and author of the new SPEER white paper on the topic. “Under the current framework, or regulatory process, utilities are allowed to earn a profit through a rate of return on their investments, driving them to focus on building capital assets, and encourage increased consumption. We’d like to explore how we might change the system, to encourage utilities to look for efficiencies, and use smart technology to partner with consumers to avoid rising regulated costs.”
The SPEER working paper suggests that utilities could be rewarded with higher profits for reducing overall costs and rates, focusing on increasing use of existing wires instead of building new infrastructure, and leveraging, instead of fearing, the new technologies springing up in their footprint.
Joining Mayor Wynn and Judge Keliher on the Commission are AEP Texas President, Judith Talavera, the Oncor COO of, Jim Greer, CenterPoint Electric Senior VP, Kenneth Mercado, and Vice President for Policy of Solar City, Jon Wellinghoff, the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and more. A full list of the commission members can be found on the SPEER Commission website as can the final report of the first SPEER Commission, published in late 2014.
“Change in this business is incremental for a variety of reasons,” said King, “but it is very timely to ask how the current process might be altered to allow utilities to be more responsive to the changing times. Utility regulation has historically asked the question, “did we pay the right amount for what we got?” but eventually we should be asking, “did we pay the right amount for what we want.”
Interviews may be requested for the day of the meeting, December 7. If interested, please contact Mike Gehrig.