Citizen’s group & Town of Crestone reach settlement agreement with electric company over rate hike

The Anne Pace et. al. and Town of Crestone v. San Luis Valley Rural Electric Co-op PUC filings have reached resolution.  The biggest relief asked for in the Complaints, which this settlement achieves, is that the demand charge will be reduced more than 7-fold before the arrival of coldest months of winter.  This will help most residential use members.

After months of legal process and lengthy discovery examination, all parties agreed to a mediation process hosted by the Colorado Public Utilities Commission on October 18.  Through this mediation a settlement was reached (The “Agreement”), setting an interim rate and other stipulations as outlined below.  The original hearing set for Nov. 19 was vacated.  Upon approval by the the Annie Pace et. al. group, the Crestone Board of Trustees, and their respective attorneys,  the filings before the PUC have been withdrawn by both groups, and the details of the Agreement are available to the public.

The agreement

To summarize the salient points of the Agreement, the demand

charge for residential customers will go down from $7.59 to $1.03, and the energy charge will go up to $.117 per kWh.  A dual demand rate for time of day members will add up to $1.30, but with a higher monthly fee and a lower energy charge of $.09 per kWh. The interim rate will be effective Dec. 1, 2019 through March 31, 2021, unless a new permanent rate structure is agreed upon earlier, pursuant to the public process outlined in the Agreement.

Anyone can choose between the Schedule A rate or the Schedule A-TOD rate by informing  SLVREC of your preference.  You will need to notify them by phone, and then sign a new contract.  Other provisions of the Agreement set forth that the meter reading charge for those who don’t have a SmartMeter will remain at a maximum of $10/month during the interim period, and thereafter will be based on actual evidence justifying the cost of sending an employee out to read the meter.  Also, the Agreement is being dismissed “without prejudice,”  which means that if the terms are not honored, the Citizens and or Town can re-file with the PUC if needed. 

Another important and hard-fought aspect of the Agreement calls for a very inclusive and information-based process to arrive at the new permanent rate.  Because of the importance of this matter to many members of SLVREC, this article sets forth most of the terms of the Agreement, and serves as an invitation to participate in the permanent rate determination process.

Specific aspects of the Agreement are set forth below: 

The rates

SLVREC agrees to put in place an interim rate for each of Schedule A and Schedule A-TOD (collectively, the “Interim Rate”), which shall include only the following rates and charges, plus any currently-applicable taxes:

Schedule A:

Customer Charge: $35.40 per meter, per month

Demand Charge: $1.03 per kW, during the highest 15-minute demand increment during the billing month

Energy Charge: $0.117 per kWh

Schedule A-TOD:

Customer Charge: $39.40 per meter, per month (single phase)

$47.15 per meter, per month (three phase)

Distribution Demand Charge: $0.50 per kW, during the highest 15-minute demand increment during the billing month

Purchased Power Demand Charge: $0.80 per kW, during the highest 15-minute demand increment during the On Peak period (noon to 10pm, excluding Sundays)

Energy Charge: $0.09 per kWh

Moving forward

SLVREC has agreed to  implement a stakeholder process during the Interim Period in order to receive input from its members regarding SLVREC’s rate design and regarding the Replacement Rate (the “Stakeholder Process”). The Stakeholder Process will occur during 2020 and shall consist of meetings involving members including a representative of the Town and at least one representative from the Citizen’s Complaint. SLVREC commits  to have diversity among the participating members in the Stakeholder Proc-ess, including with regard to geography across SLVREC’s service territory and with regard to different rate classes. The meetings will concern education regarding issues concerning rates and rate design and the opportunity for members to make rate design proposals.

SLVREC has agreed to provide notice to its members of opportunities for involvement in the Stakeholder Process. In addition, SLVREC agreed to  provide an opportunity for any member or other interested stakeholder to provide written comments to inform the Stakeholder Process and to make such comments  publicly available.

SLVREC agreed to  produce and make publicly available on their website at least one interim report during the Stakeholder Process, and one final report at the conclusion of the Stakeholder Process (collectively, and together with any other reports produced during the Stakeholder Process, the “Reports”).

SLVREC  also agreed to undertake customer education about the nature and anticipated impacts of the Replacement Rate prior to implementing the Replacement Rate. If the Replacement Rate for Schedule A and Schedule A-TOD includes a demand charge, or any other sort of mandatory charge other than a simple fixed-fee customer charge and volumetric energy charge, SLVREC has undertaken to  explain how such a charge functions and how individual members can prepare for and respond to such a charge in its education efforts.

The  Agreement’s full term sheet is available on the public notice board outside of Crestone Town Hall, on the Town of Crestone website, www.colorado.gov/townofcrestone, under What’s New tab, “Agreement Reached in PUC Mediation”, and is attached to the Town of Crestone’s Nov. 11 meeting minutes. Visit http://bit.ly/338n2Jx.

As a result of the Agreement, most residential members will see their rates go down and will avoid the harsh result of the $7.59 demand charge in the winter months to come.  This demonstrates the importance of participation and perseverance, a lot of hard work, and incredible good fortune. Once a few highly committed citizens stood up for fairness and transparency and held up the torch, we found support from many in the valley and beyond.  Thanks to Annie Pace for getting the ball rolling and to Lili Zohar for keeping it rolling in the right direction!

The Citizens Group organizers would like to express heartfelt gratitude to their professional advocates Sarah Keane and Samantha Caravello of Kirsch Kaplan and Rockwell who took on representing the Citizens group, pro-bono (and at the eleventh hour), to Energy Outreach Colorado for providing expert Bill Markus of MCPM, to the Town of Crestone Trustees and Mayor Danforth, their counsel Brandon Dittman, to the Citizens who signed on to this challenge, and all those who offered their financial and energetic support