Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant has allowed the UTC to train key staff members in energy efficiency technologies and program evaluation, and the conservation-related activities of the UTC have contributed to utilities' considerable progress in capturing available energy savings in both gas and electric use.
The UTC supports utilities in setting conservation targets, participates in Integrated Resource Plan and conservation advisory groups, evaluates past utility achievements, compares proposed targets to past performance, encourages IOUs to continue to set challenging targets, and will penalize utilities that do not meet targets. UTC staff use similar techniques in the oversight of natural gas utilities.
UE-100514 – PacifiCorp Integrated Resource Plan
UE-080949 – PSE Integrated Resource Plan
To achieve their EIA conservation targets, the UTC requires electric Investor Owned Utilities (IOUs) to submit biennial conservation plans, which include budgets, program descriptions, rebate amounts, cost effectiveness standards, and many other details. UTC staff oversee similar planning by natural gas utilities.
The UTC authorized electric IOUs to project conservation program spending and recover the costs associated with conservation programs in the same year, thereby significantly reducing regulatory lag. Recovery through rates is accomplished through rate surcharges, such as system-benefits charges, tariff riders and trackers, or purchase gas adjustment mechanisms, which add a small premium based upon customers’ volumetric usage. Utilities use the proceeds from the surcharges to provide incentives, direct funding, and non-monetary support for consumer-initiated efficiency measures.
UTC Staff is organizing an Energy Conservation Working Group to develop common understanding between electric IOUs and other stakeholders regarding the implementation of EIA conservation requirements. The working group began in early 2011, and should result in utility acquisition of more cost-effective energy conservation in the future.
The UTC has cleared the way, generally in rate cases, for utilities to use conservation funding for low-income customer access to conservation efforts, including health and safety repairs. The UTC recently opened an investigation on how to achieve more low-income conservation.
The UTC issued a “Report and Policy Statement on Regulatory Mechanisms, Including Decoupling, to Encourage Utilities to Meet or Exceed Their Conservation Targets,” which reiterates UTC’s support for a “limited decoupling mechanism” for gas utilities, similar to the one approved earlier for Avista, which allowed the company to recover so-called “lost margin” due to reduced sales caused by the company’s conservation programs. The statement also expressed receptiveness to a “full decoupling mechanism” by which either gas or electric companies could recover “lost margin” due to any cause (including conservation, economic downturn, or weather), but would also credit consumers if energy usage exceeded the forecasted amounts used to set rates.