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Fight the Power…Company! The Commission rules!

fight the power final, really

Beginning Sept 18th, South Carolina residential Duke Energy users will see their electric bills increase 6.9%.  In September of 2014, another increase of 3.3% will be added.  Thank you, South Carolina Public Service Commission.

No, really, thank you for ignoring the direct pleas of over 1,700 SC residents, the thousands more represented by advocacy groups like the AARP, small senior living care communities and local low income aid groups.

Thank you for ignoring the economic impact that an increase will have for our working poor.

Thank you for ignoring poor financial management or mismanagement by Duke Energy.

Thank you, most of all, for ignoring that Duke is a monopoly that does what it wants, spends what it wants, knowing full well that they can recoup whatever money they toss around because the people charged with the responsibility to reign in utility monopolies will fall for the old bait and switch routine of “Ask for a huge amount, and ‘settle’ for a smaller increase.”

We, the People, have no options when it comes to our utilities, there is no free market competitions for the necessities, like power, water, gas, so we rely on the Public Service Commission to be where we turn for relief and aid.  This 3rd increase in 4yrs just demonstrates that we have NO OPTIONS.

But, friends, do not lose hope, we lost this battle, but we must fight on.  Even the Greenville News in a recent editorial stated that one thing missing from this latest fight with Duke was consumer advocacy.  I agree with them.  The Public Service Commission is staffed with industry experts, and people familiar with how the utility industries actually work is important, but equally important is a voice for the People on the Commission.  The addition of the Office of Regulatory Staff, even with their mission of doing what’s in the best interest of the consumers along with the industries and the overall economic health of the state seems to have only added to the pro-industry nature of the current Utilities Regulatory Body.  We need consumer advocates.

We, at Another Voice, are looking into the details of the Public Service Commission, the qualifications, etc. but I do have a couple ideas to start the discussion

1). There should be at least 1 consumer advocate on the Commission.  This might require a slight alteration to the qualifications, but it is something that needs doing.

2). The process that Duke and all utilities has to go through in order to get increases has been likened to a civil court, with the Office of Regulatory Staff acting as the lawyers and the Public Service Commission serving as the judge.  Sounds fairly effective, until one realizes two things about the “lawyers.” 1). The “lawyers'” mission statement has them working for both sides, actually for 3 sides: consumer, provider and the state’s economic interest.  Now, this seems like a conflict of interest.  2). These “lawyers” appear to committed, not to winning for one of the 3 sides, but committed to “settle,” to get the best “deal” they can. -Here’s my idea: Create a Consumer Advocacy Staff and let them be committed to just the people and let the Staffs battle it out for the “court” (PSC)

These are just ideas right now, but I encourage you to work with me in seeing if we can change how utilities monopolies get regulated.  Leave me your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!