It remains to be seen what the Wyoming Public Service Commission will decide next month when it considers Rocky Mountain Power’s 30% rate increase request. Whatever decision comes down, it may not be the final rate increase request for Wyoming’s largest utility.
Abby Briggerman, electric utility regulatory attorney for Holland and Heart, spoke at a Corporations Committee hearing for the Wyoming Industrial Energy Consumers (WIEC), which represents approximately 20 large industrial consumers served by Rocky Mountain Power.
The rate increase RMP is asking for is related to operation expenses. The utility also will have capital costs associated with transmission lines it’s building, Briggerman said, and the company will likely be requesting further rate increases.
“It’s not unthinkable that another rate case will be expected in relatively short order,” Briggerman said.
In response to the nearly 30% rate increase request that now sits with the Public Service Commission, the Corporations Committee considered six drafts of legislation.
Briggerman said that WIEC opposed all the draft bills, arguing they would increase rates for the group’s members.
Two draft bills were moved forward for consideration in the next meeting, and the committee also voted to adopt a resolution.
A moratorium on new wind and solar projects was voted down. The legislation would have prohibited public utilities from including in their rates the recovery of earnings on capital costs associated with new wind and solar projects. The bill would have sunsetted July 1, 2025.
Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, wanted to combine the moratorium with other legislation the committee considered to give it some purpose. While the moratorium was imposed, he said the PSC could hold hearings and take public comments to consider the impacts of wind and solar on the reliability of Wyoming’s electricity supply.
Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said it wasn’t a workable bill, and the other committee members agreed.
In its next meeting, the committee will consider a draft bill that would exclude Wyoming from paying its part of a multi-state protocol (MSP) if specific costs don’t benefit Wyoming.
Wyoming customers pay a share of RMP’s cost among other states based on a how much energy the state’s customers consume. Wyoming's share of this is 15%.
There was a concern that RMP was shouldering Wyoming customers with investments in green energy projects that produce wind power to be consumed in Oregon, Washington and California.
Public Service Commissioner Mary Throne explained that the MSP already grants the PSC the authority the legislation proposes, and the PSC has disagreed with and denied allocations in the past.
The Corporations Committee also discussed a draft bill that would require the PSC to establish standards related to electric reliability and set penalties for when utilities fail to meet those standards.
Commissioner Chris Petrie said that, while not all customers in Wyoming would agree, the quality of service in the last couple years is within reasonable industry standards.
“We haven’t had rolling blackouts or brownouts or outages that are particularly related to any kind of intermittent or renewable energy generation,” Petrie said.
Therefore, Petrie explained, the commission has data to provide a technical description of the reliability and service quality that Wyoming is accustomed to.
“And that we intend to see that preserved and not to have that diminished by changes to the system,” he said.
The committee also will consider four more draft bills that WIAC proposed.
One would require a public utility’s long-range generation mix plans to go through a litigated process, which is more involved than the current process.
Another would revert a cost share formula to a previous ratio that places 80% upon the utility rather than the current 70%.
A third draft bill will create more transparency for a utility’s request for proposals, and a fourth draft bill will exempt third-party generation from commission regulation when it sells its power directly to customers.
The goal is to increase alternative generation sources in the state.
The committee voted to adopt a resolution that opposes the requested rate increase, calls upon the PSC to conduct a thorough review of the request and asks the PSC to seek alternatives and solutions that would mitigate the burden on Wyoming energy consumers.
Scott said that the resolution was effectively obligating the committee to adopt some real regulation to deal with the issues before it.
“Otherwise, we will be rightly criticized for wasting our time on frivolous resolutions, when we should be passing bills that would actually do something,” Scott said.
Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Cheyenne, said that with the four drafts related to WIAC requests, the committee will be considering six pieces of legislation at the next meeting.