Guest Column: Another Rocky Mountain Rate Hike – Here We Go Again!

Rep. Harriet Hageman writes, "Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Rocky Mountain Power wants to raise your electric bill by double digit … yet again. This is not the first rate increase that RMP has proposed, and it will not be the last."

CSD Staff

May 27, 20248 min read

Hageman guest columns 9 15 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) wants to raise your electric bill by double digits (16.5% in total) … yet again.

This is not the first rate increase that RMP has proposed, and it will not be the last. 

This yearly increase will instead become the “new normal” unless we fight back against the radical environmental agenda that seeks to force us into “15-minute cities,” to take our gas-powered vehicles, and to destroy our reliable and affordable energy resources and producers. 

Wyoming citizens and several elected officials led the charge in 2023 to challenge RMP’s efforts to increase electricity rates by nearly 30% - with the Public Service Commission (PSC) ultimately approving a much smaller increase of 8.3%.

Now, after being rebuked on last year’s attempted hike, RMP is still trying to fleece their consumers for the difference by suing the PSC for $23 million plus attorney fees for a portion of the rate hike that they were not granted – a lawsuit that would ultimately be paid for by the taxpayers and ratepayers.

No matter how RMP tried to spin the reasoning behind last year’s request for such a huge increase, the reality is that these dramatic increases in electricity costs result from the radical green agenda that has taken hold in our state and federal government, as well as corporate America. 

RMP is one of those companies that decided several years ago to jump onto the green bandwagon, and it has been focusing its efforts and “investing” its financial resources in unreliable and expensive energy – predominantly wind and solar – as it “transitions” to “clean” energy. 

While it boasts about receiving $85 million in federal tax credits and other subsidies for moving forward with this “transition,” it sidesteps the fact that such subsidies did not pay for the actual production of reliable and affordable electricity, but were just part of the Biden administration’s efforts to incentivize companies to “go green” despite the cost to the consumers. 

It is very simple. When the government adopts policies and regulations that are intended to increase the cost of energy production, the cost of energy production goes up. 

When the government adopts policies and regulations to force a “transition” to less reliable and less affordable electricity, reliability and affordability both go down.  

Utility companies know this, yet have been willing partners in pursuing a “transition” that is not only infeasible in both the short and long term, but that will cause an untold amount of misery if we do not reverse course, protect our legacy energy producers, and stop wasting literally hundreds of billions of dollars on propping up unreliable and unaffordable energy resources. 

These costly and unreliable energy sources will never provide even a fraction of the power needed in Wyoming, let alone the rest of the country, and we must start demanding that companies such as RMP return to the days when decisions were dictated by reality and feasibility – rather than fantasy and wishful thinking.   

RMP has defended its latest increase request by claiming that it is “driven by fuel and wholesale electricity price increases in 2023 that resulted from coal supply disruptions and severe weather.”

Additionally, the company claims insurance costs, inflation and a need for infrastructure investments are also factors. Just as a reminder: RMP plans to retire 2,614 megawatts (MW) worth of coal capacity over the next ten years. It is hard to imagine a situation where such a move would not make matters worse for its customers. 

Perhaps RMP should reconsider such retirement.  Perhaps it should also consider entering into long-term contracts with gas and coal producers rather than buying on the spot market, thereby negotiating more affordable prices for the fuel that it needs to produce electricity.

The cold hard fact is that this corporate willingness to take federal subsidies to make business decisions that are not in the best interest of the consumers is largely to blame for skyrocketing utility costs. 

The rush to move from coal and natural gas (and hydropower) to using the unreliables is one of the primary reasons as to why each new year brings another huge rate hike.

Focusing on furthering the “green” agenda, rather than on providing affordable and reliable energy (which is the company’s only responsibility) is another reason as to why RMP is becoming less and less able to do either. 

A quick search of RMP parent company PacifiCorp’s website exposes their real goal, which is to become “carbon free” by the magical date of 2050: “As new sustainable generating resources come online, we will expand our transmission network to ensure the reliability and reasonable costs our customers expect and deserve.

This plan includes short-term actions and a 20-year vision designed to meet the needs of customers tomorrow and for the next generation. Developed with comprehensive data analysis and active stakeholder input spanning more than a year, the plan results in a system-wide 70% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2030, an 87% reduction by 2035:  and a 100% reduction by 2050.” 

While being unable to produce electricity during substantial parts of the day (resulting in blackouts and brownouts) may reduce RMP’s “carbon footprint” (at least according to the models), I don’t believe that such an outcome should be the primary goal of an electrical provider.

The folly of a “net zero” target by any specific year shows the unseriousness of some of our government leaders and those in the power industry.  It also exposes how dangerous their “green” obsession is becoming for Wyoming energy consumers and the country as a whole.

There is no evidence to suggest that the world can live without coal and natural gas as energy sources, nor that wind and solar could ever be sufficiently reliable to power our economy, including our industries, schools, hospitals, and homes.

The evidence actually suggests quite the opposite. Despite massive subsidies (hundreds of billions of dollars) and government focus on so-called “renewables,” they still account for only 20% of the electricity used in the United States – with only 13.7% being provided from wind and solar – and 100% reliable backup and baseload power is still needed (e.g., that produced by coal, natural gas and hydropower). 

Texas and Nebraska recently experienced severe thunderstorms, with the attending hail wiping out entire solar fields, cracking panels and rendering them useless (none of which are recyclable, by the way).

Tens of thousands of acres of land have been destroyed nationwide by these solar fields, which account for producing a mere 3.4% of our electricity.  (Fun fact:  It takes an average of ten acres of land to produce one MW of solar electricity, substantially lower than other forms of electricity).

There have been numerous stories of wind turbine blades snapping or failing, and even when they remain intact, they require fossil fuels to operate in harsh weather climates such as what we have in Wyoming, and their concrete bases and steel parts cannot be produced without coal. 

Turbine infrastructure is also not recyclable. Sadly, our beautiful prairies and other lands are being turned into huge industrial eyesores with 30-ton concrete foundations and whirling blades destroying our views and killing our birds.   

These “green energy solutions,” in other words, are really not all that “green,” are unreliable, cannot meet our ever-growing energy demands, and are cost prohibitive without massive government subsidies. They will also result in ever-increasing rate hikes as the utility companies seek to offload the consequences of their “green” agenda onto the consumers.

With or without billions of dollars in government tax breaks, incentives and grants, unreliable and unaffordable energy resources do not make sense by any objective metric.

Until our government and business leaders finally return to this reality, we will continue to be confronted with ever-increasing utility bills, less reliable services, ongoing and increasing inflation in all aspects of our economy, the undermining of our national security, and a reduced standard of living. 

Making energy poverty our new normal is simply not acceptable, and none of us should tolerate political or business leaders who pursue policies that further that outcome. 

We should not reward them by allowing them to foist the cost of such policies on all of us -- the consumers for whom they are supposed to be working -- as they deflect attention from the real cost of their “green” agenda. 

Next year, when RMP seeks to find yet another scapegoat for its latest price hike, look to the company’s “net-zero” investments and you will plainly see the real reason we are all paying more for their services.

Rep. Harriet Hageman represents the state of Wyoming in the U.S. Congress.

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CSD Staff