By Buck Williams, TPT Energy Correspondent
Man, is there nothing the state-sponsored, government-supported electrical utilities won’t use to enrich themselves on the backs of their captive customers?
The latest rascal to find new ways to take control away from consumers is Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), who filed a rate case proposal in December with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC). OG&E wants to hit its solar customers with mandatory demand charges as well as double their fixed charge. And it doesn’t stop there. The utility also wants to default all residential and small-commercial customers on to demand charges, plus increase their fixed charges.
What’s a demand charge you ask? A demand charge bills a customer based on their highest 15 minutes of usage during a month — and doesn’t reveal the amount until after the bill has already arrived. So if I, a low-usage customer, have a few friends over for some nachos and wings during the Super Bowl, my bill would skyrocket based on what my usage was if I happened to have the TV on while heating up nachos in the microwave, chilling beers in the refrigerator and keeping wings warm in the oven. Needless to say, I wouldn’t really have much incentive to conserve energy after that.
Can you imagine what a demand charge would look like in other aspects of your life? How would it be if your supermarket told you on Dec. 1 that your November grocery bill would be based on the food you bought for feeding a party of 40 relatives on Thanksgiving day. Insane, right?
Not too insane for OG&E. If they get what they ask for, Oklahomans would have next to no control over their electricity bills. They could kiss energy choice and conservation goodbye.
Under this new plan, OG&E is essentially asking consumers to gamble on what their energy usage per month is — and if they guess wrong, they will be hit with enormous bills. What’s more, this proposal is particularly harmful for customers on fixed incomes – e.g. low-income consumers and seniors – plus customers who choose to invest in energy efficiency or rooftop solar. Penalized for installing energy efficient lightbulbs or generating my own energy from my roof – that’s just not right.
As with any good government monopoly, the true intent of these charges is hidden in complicated, impenetrable language that it’s even hard to figure out what the heck the charges are supposed to accomplish. What we know for sure is that customers would see their fixed fees more than double and they’d end up paying punitive demand charges.
Similar demand-charge schemes were defeated recently in states like California and Nevada, in large part because of the level of confusion they’d cause for customers. After all, basing a customer’s bill on demand charges is inequitable and unfair.
No public-utilities commission in the country has ever approved demand charges for all residential customers, and for Oklahoma’s solar customers, it would be the first state in the country to have a mandatory demand charge for relieving stress on the grid and throwing off the governmental yoke of energy oppression.
Look, it’s time we stood up to these utilities. Let the Oklahoma Corporation Commission know that you won’t stand for these anti-competitive monopoly attacks from OG&E – or any utility for that matter.