Testimony is in full swing in Denver today on Black Hills Energy’s proposed 4 percent rate hike.
It comes in the wake of two local public hearings that saw packed crowds plead with a Colorado Public Utilities Commission judge to reject the increase. This time, when Judge Robert Garvey considers testimony, he will be doing so with a recommendation that he not only roll back on the rate request, but block Black Hills Energy from including employee equity compensation in its request.
That is an unprecedented step from the Office of Consumer Counsel. The OCC is a state division charged with advising the commission on utility rates and policy matters.
Black Hills wants to increase rates to help cover the cost of its $50 million wind farm. But Cindy Schonhaut, the new chief of the OCC, advised the commission to cut ratepayers’ bills instead. Last week, her office further asked the judge to bar the payment of equity compensation from the rate hike.
The compensation for employees is a performance benefit on-par with stock options, and really should be paid by investors rather than ratepayers, OCC staff told The Chieftain.
We couldn’t agree more.
One of the OCC’s primary tasks is to represent Colorado’s consumers in cases before the PUC. We are gratified that Ms. Schonhaut and her team are actively advocating on behalf of the customers in the face of onerously expensive renewable energy targets.
We sincerely hope the PUC follows suit.