THE ANGELLE TAX: ‘Conservative Superstar’ At PSC Is Raiding Your Wallet

We’ve previously discussed the attempts at the Public Service Commission to force consumers and utilities into a wasteful, coercive, expensive, corrupt and ineffective “energy efficiency” program, and the steadfast opposition to those efforts by PSC chairman Eric Skrmetta and fellow commissioner and now 5th District Congressional candidate Clyde Holloway.

For the last eight months or so, there has been a major back-and-forth on the question of whether that program was going to survive. In March, Skrmetta took to these pages to explain why, at the time, the PSC was killing it…

By way of illustration, let’s review what the former LPSC EE policy would have created:

  1. A bureaucracy spending thirty million dollars ($30,000,000.00) of ratepayer money to be spent over the next four years for unspecific purposes for a “Phase 1” program. The money would be spent to hire third party administrators who would then develop programs on how to spend money on EE through unknown mechanisms. That money had to be paid for by rate payers and would have appeared as an additional charge on consumers’ bills. That was only Phase 1, and there is no knowing how many other phases would be sought to support the groups seeking to manage these poorly developed programs.
  2. These third party administrators would have selected high efficiency appliances to advertise through your utility bill. I personally question how and under what circumstances these third party administrators were going to “solicit” manufacturers to be selected for the approved list. I find this aspect capable of breeding inherent conflicts of interest at the third party administrator’s level.
  3. Please note that participation in this program was mandatory! That is, unless you are an industrial user, which were exempt from the EE policy. So users of 78% of the state’s electricity output did not have to participate in, or pay for, the EE policy. Representation of industrial users in other jurisdictions can create conflicts of interest.

So, as a result of the question of potential conflicts having been so clearly raised at that point, all consultants of the LPSC now have to sign a statement under oath that they have no conflict in representing the LPSC.

The LPSC was referenced in the Forbes article as “Luddites” (“Opponents of technological progress.”) Nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is the LPSC is positioned as a watchdog for consumers and exists in part to identify ways that some groups use to try to fleece consumers.

In any future development of an energy efficiency policy in Louisiana there are factors the commission may want to include:

  1. The program would be voluntary.
  2. The program would encourage participation from the industrial sector as they consume 78% of the electricity.
  3. Each utility should manage its own EE policy and save Louisiana ratepayers tens of millions of dollars in the process by eliminating special interest groups from sticking their gob in the trough containing ratepayer money.
  4. Encourage utilities to take meaningful action to assist residential users in the task of weatherizing homes and educating the public in ways to save electricity. Utilities should bear this cost, not ratepayers.

It’s difficult to understand how groups who seek to make energy affordable for consumers want to work in ways that actually cost consumers more money on their utility bills. As a Commissioner, I am suspect of groups seeking to manage an EE policy when that policy should be dealt with by the utility, at its expense. There is room in the future for an improved EE policy for Louisiana. But, we need an EE policy free of third party conflicts of interest and one that helps reduce the need for future electrical infrastructure, and one that truly helps helping folks save money. I am confident we will get onto this work in due time, but in a way that is reasonable and untainted by financial gain for third party administrators, and in the public interest.

The “special interest groups” who Skrmetta noted wanted to be “sticking their gob in the trough containing ratepayer money” didn’t give up. In fact, they went so far as to sue the PSC over the fact it voted down the energy efficiency program. When we covered that suit we gave our perspective on this effort…

Because the Energy Efficiency Rules passed in December were a massive rice bowl to the Alliance for Affordable Energy and the Sierra Club, and Skrmetta broke that rice bowl into shards back in February.

AAE and Sierra were going to be third-party administrators for the energy efficiency programs those rules would mandate the power companies set up, and they’d get to make a killing by going around and signing people up to get all kinds of new appliances and insulation and windows and so forth, on the power companies’ dime – which, since power companies pass all these costs on to consumers one way or the other, really means the ratepayers’ dime.

What will happen now that this $30 million boondoggle has been blown out of the water is that it will likely be replaced with a voluntary program – something whereby the power companies will sign you up to update your house with energy-efficient improvements, at no up-front cost to you, but then recoup their investment by charging you the same rate you’re currently paying until the savings cover their costs plus a little rate of return, and then once those costs are covered you see your electric bill drop off a cliff down the road.

That’s a sustainable program, but it doesn’t require the services of a Casey DeMoss Roberts or a Jordan Macha to implement. It’s a lot harder for them to wet their beak at that trough. So they’re going to scream about the ineffectiveness of the replacement program and how it screws the public and accelerates global warming or hurricanes or athlete’s foot or whatever fresh idiocy the envirosocialist crowd is pushing this month to cover for their avarice.

Remember, these are people who will howl about the “greed” of an Entergy who provides the miracle of light, electronic entertainment and air conditioning in your house in exchange for a fee but demand the right to serve as well-paid gatekeepers and middle men in a scheme mandating their role. And that’s not greed. That’s “community activism” and so forth.

Fast forward to yesterday, and we find that the “swing” vote on the PSC has come up with a way to turn the “voluntary” energy efficiency program into exactly the kind of slush fund Skrmetta was trying to avoid.

Commissioner Scott Angelle says the average residential customer would pay an extra $0.47 per month. Costs on businesses would be capped at $75 a month, although commissioners say very few commercial customers would get anywhere near that cap. Supporters say energy efficiency is a “low-cost resource,” and the hope is that ratepayers would save money over the long run by reducing peak demand and avoiding the need to add more energy sources to the system later. Commissioner Clyde Holloway, who is running for Congress, left the meeting before the vote was held. He said he wanted to make sure everyone knows it wasn’t him that imposed the “tax” on ratepayers to pay for the program. Chairman Eric Skrmetta, who voted against the program, says measures built into the rules to protect utilities from losing revenue push costs onto ratepayers. “We are raising the cost of electricity,” he says, calling the program a “shell game” that subsidizes companies that provide energy efficiency projects. Commissioners Foster Campbell and Lambert Boissiere voted in favor of the measure along with Angelle. “This is sort of a compromise, and I think it has more good than bad,” Campbell says.

Holloway called this the Angelle Tax, which was a quote worthy of his title as a Public Service Commissioner.

Understand what’s been done here. Skrmetta had things set, with Angelle’s vote, where the utilities could work a voluntary program with their customers that wouldn’t increase anybody’s electric rates or cost the public a dime. And those voluntary programs would use third party administrators only if they could demonstrate value to the actual utilities who would hire them, or not, based on that demonstrated value.

What Angelle has done, and he got Bananas Foster Campbell and Lambert Boissiere, the two Democrats on the Commission, to go along with him on this, is to take Skrmetta’s plan and torch it.

Instead, we’ll have the same crooked “energy efficiency” program which creates the $30 million rice bowl for people like the Sierra Club and the Alliance For Affordable Energy to set up shop and “administer” the thing – which is a nice way to say they’re going to hire left-wing college kids with exotic body art and the fragrance of patchouli oil following behind them to go door-to-door signing people up for things like energy-saver washing machines.

And it’s a “voluntary” program with a deadline all the utility companies must meet to sign up for it.

Why a deadline? Because you as a ratepayer will be hit with a rate increase to pay for corporate welfare to the power companies in return for them to sign up for the thing. Feeding time at the public trough closes on Oct. 1 – if you’re not at the trough you’ll get no slop.

Bear in mind that before Scott “Louisiana’s Newest Conservative Superstar” Angelle got involved in this program, the general idea was that the utilities could offer a program whereby if you wanted to you could get them to buy you a new dryer or refrigerator that would save you money on your electric bill, but your savings wouldn’t be realized until they paid for the cost of the appliance – they’d pay themselves back and then your bill would get a nice haircut.

Instead, thanks to the Angelle Tax, your rates will go up to pay for the Sierra Club and folks like them to make a fortune signing up old ladies for appliance upgrades they don’t need and the power companies will get to make a profit (or a bribe, if you prefer) off of the program they’ve “voluntarily” signed up for. Because the PSC is now going to dangle free money in front of the power companies to promote this “voluntary” program.

The utility companies think this idea is swell. The environmentalist kooks love it, too, since they’re now going to make millions of dollars doing something nobody particularly needs their participation in doing.

And you? You just found politicians, corporations and kids with nose rings digging in your wallet. You can thank Scott Angelle, whose name gets floated for Senate, Congress and Governor every time his political consultant Timmy Teepell decides to float a trial balloon, for the privilege.

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