Hearing on power company rules set for Feb. 4 in Kingston

January 19, 2015 | Filed under: News | Posted by: The Daily Freeman 

KINGSTON --  The state Public Service Commission will hold a public information session Feb. 4 about a proposed overhaul of regulations governing electricity production and distribution....

The hearing is to begin at 6 p.m. in the Common Council Chamber at Kingston City Hall, 420 Broadway.

Revisions proposed last year by commission staff are intended to provide utilities with an easier regulatory route to bringing alternative energy sources online while giving customers more say in rules governing utilities.

“Addressing these challenges and opportunities involves questioning two assumptions ... that there is little or no role for customers to play in addressing system needs, except in times of emergency, and that the centralized generation and bulk transmission model is invariably cost effective due to economies of scale,” the commission staff wrote.

The staff added that electric grid issues need to be resolved so small vendors can put power into the system.

The proposed revisions include changing how utilities determine revenues to avoid swaying customers away from alternative energy and changing the rate structure paid by customers.

Actual changes in the rules have not been developed; commission officials still are seeking comments about factors that need to be considered.

Jennifer Metzger, of the group Citizens for Local Power, said the Feb. 4 information session can show commission officials that residents are tired of being at the mercy of utilities that have benefited from rules that discourage small producers.

“This reform effort provides enormous opportunities for new kinds of programs and tools for community-level engagement in energy decision making,” Metzger said. “We’ve been strong advocates of ... greater community control over energy sources and promoting the type of energy system systems at the local level.”

Metzger said there are questions about how much impact utility officials will have on rule changes.

“One is about the utilities’ role in these reform and whether utilities should own generation again, specifically renewable generation, and how much of a role they should play in animating these markets,” she said. “We have been advocating for caution in expanding the utilities’ role because they are regulated utilities and have huge monopolistic advantages in energy markets.”

Several utilities, including Poughkeepsie-based Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp., have filed a response with the commission, asking that caution be taken in changing rules that would impact the ability to make system upgrades.

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