COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Energy provider SCE&G should stop a bill-adjusting program that's supposed to benefit customers but is so complicated, only the utility can determine if people are being correctly charged, the Office of Regulatory Staff said Friday.
The state agency that represents the public in utility issues said the Electric Weather Normalization Adjustment should stop with December's bills. The report serves as a recommendation to the Public Service Commission. There is no timetable on a decision.
The program, approved in 2010 following an unusually cold winter, was touted as protecting customers from spikes in their bills during extreme weather, by lowering electricity rates during months when temperatures are hotter or colder than usual. Meanwhile, raising rates during milder-than-normal temperatures protected the utility.
It was designed "to take volatility out of customers' bills," said utility spokesman Eric Boomhower. "The fact that it stabilizes our operating revenues is a benefit, but not its purpose."
In theory, it's a good idea, said Dukes Scott, executive director of Regulatory Staff, which supported the program as part of a 2010 agreement with the utility on a rate hike.
"But it's so complicated, if someone brings in their monthly bill and says, 'Is this bill correct?' we can't tell them," he said.
It's worrisome, he said, that only the utility can make and verify the calculations.
SCE&G uses 19 different equations to calculate the adjustments for different groups of customers, with each group having 20 separate billing cycles. So customers are billed differently even within the same category. In all, nearly 22,000 weather-based adjustment factors were applied to customers' bills between the program's launch in August 2010 and August 2013, Regulatory Staff reported.