Rep. Robert Godshall (R-Montgomery), chairman of the House Consumer Affairs Committee, held a public hearing on Tuesday at the state Capitol on legislation passed in 2008 to promote electric conservation and save money.
Act 129 required Pennsylvania’s seven largest electric distribution companies to develop energy efficiency and conservation plans and to adopt other methods for reducing energy consumption and peak electric demand.
“While this legislation has made our electric utilities operate more efficiently and provided consumers with a greater awareness about energy conservation and reduced emissions, there are some aspects of the law that need to be revisited,” said Godshall. “This hearing brought together various stakeholders to offer their insight on the impact of this legislation on their operations and their ability to provide consumers reliable, cost-effective electric power now and into the future.”
The electric utilities represented at the hearing, which included PECO, Duquesne Light, First Energy, PPL and others, said they have met and exceeded the benchmarks established for them in the first phase of the plan implementation. They indicated that such gains should not be anticipated going forward. The utilities emphasized that ratepayers are picking up the tab for all of the efficiency measures, including public education programs, which are running into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and for the exorbitant penalties that utilities must pay when they fall short of full compliance. Some suggested that incentives would be a more appropriate and effective means of achieving compliance.
Godshall expressed concern about the severity of the penalties assessed on utilities for failure to meet the requirements of the act, which would be a direct cost to consumers. He is also weighing the impact of the law on smaller power plants, which could be forced to close, eliminating much-needed jobs and further reducing reliable power to the state’s energy grid.
The high demand of electricity during recent winter storms has resulted in unusually high electric rates for some Pennsylvania consumers with variable rate contracts. Godshall announced that his committee will hold a public hearing on the issue on
Thursday, March 20 in the Majority Caucus Room, 140 main Capitol at 9:30 a.m.