Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners approved new rules Thursday that would make changes to energy efficiency programs run by electric utilities.
Commissioners voted 3-0 to adopt the rules, although Commissioner Dana Murphy said utilities could be more consistent in how they account for energy-efficiency savings and adopt more aggressive goals.
“I think there’s more to be done, but I do think it’s a good direction to be moving and I think that’s what I would tell all the utilities, along with all the stakeholders involved here. Your voices were heard here,” Murphy said before her vote for approval.
The commission’s public utility division drafted the rules and held several technical conferences with interested groups, including electric utilities, environmental and consumer groups. The commission heard proposed changes to the rules earlier this month, but delayed action to make additional changes suggested by commissioners on the efficiency programs.
Utilities design their own energy efficiency programs in accordance with commission rules. Because the programs result in fewer kilowatt hours being sold, utilities are allowed to recover some of the administrative costs. Utilities also get additional incentives for meeting specified energy-efficiency goals.
Commissioners Patrice Douglas and Bob Anthony expressed concern over when the rules for efficiency programs would go into effect. Commission staff suggested 2015, but utilities successfully argued to wait until 2016 so they wouldn’t have to make changes to programs already in effect.
In response to commissioners’ questions, Kathy Champion, a regulatory analyst with the public utility division, said utilities were inconsistent in how they account for their energy savings. Staff reviewed utility filings, looked at the levels of incentives and studied consumer education programs on the benefits of energy-efficiency programs.
“What we saw was that the utility filings were very different,” Champion said. “The way they were applying the rules were very different. If you talked to the utilities, they recognized that one utility was doing something differently than they were, based on their interpretation of the rules. It wasn’t wrong, it was just not consistent.”
Champion said the rule changes were an attempt to connect incentives with performance goals for electricity sales reductions, which had become disconnected under the present rules. She said the new rules were a good balance between the flexibility desired by utilities and the review needed for regulators.
“So what we tried to do was clean it all up, put everyone on the same playing field and make it clear that there’s some link to incentives and performance,” Champion said.
Among other changes were rules allowing electric utilities to notify customers by email or text message for confirmation of billing changes or annual notification of commission utility rules.
Customers would have to opt to receive electronic notification.
By default, customers would still receive mailed notices.
The rules now go to the Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin for final approval.