Sunday, April 5, 2015

Electric utilities zap customers with higher fixed fees

Electric utilities across the nation are responding to slumping sales by boosting fixed customer charges, generating a guaranteed cash flow regardless of the volume of energy a customer consumes.

Andrew Maykuth reports in today's Philadelphia Inquirer:

Pennsylvania's two largest electric companies, Peco Energy Co. and PPL Electric, have filed in recent days rate-increase requests that seek substantial boosts in basic monthly charges.

This shift toward fixed fees has aroused opposition in other states from advocates for low-income customers and seniors, as well as from renewable-energy and environmental groups.

Critics say reliance on fixed fees places a heavier burden on small customers and penalizes the growing number who install solar panels or use other methods to reduce their dependence on the grid.

"It's poor public policy," said Bill Malcolm, a senior legislative representative for AARP.

"Raising the fixed monthly charge lowers the variable per-kilowatt charge, which creates a disincentive for conservation and energy-efficiency and gives consumers less control of their bill."

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