Electric Ratepayers Affordability and Reliability Advocacy Act

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Many states have advisory or regulatory bodies in place to represent the interests of rate-paying utility customers. Unfortunately, many of these boards have become co-opted and lost their mission focus. They are being exploited by special interests whose main purpose is not to protect ratepayers from excessive costs but is to champion causes and political objectives that have little to do, and are often at odds, with maintaining reliable and affordable electricity. Chief among these is the promotion of so-called “green energy,” which presently is unreliable, and void of subsidies, cost prohibitive. This model legislation seeks to correct this by creating a “Ratepayer Affordability and Reliability Advocate” whose singular mission is to advocate for the most reliable, least cost form of electricity in a service area. In states that have a Citizen Utility Board or similar structure in place, this advocate could simply be placed on that board and the mission of the board redefined. In states that have no Ratepayer Consumer Advocate, the position could be established and could be placed on a regulatory board that sets electricity prices.

Electric Ratepayers Affordability and Reliability Advocacy Act

Legislative Intent

To represent all electric ratepayers with integrity and professionalism in ensuring quality, reliable utility services at the lowest cost possible.

SECTION 1. Definitions

(1) “Advocate” means the Ratepayer Affordability and Reliability Ratepayer Advocate.

(2) “Utility” means any public utility, municipally owned utility, or subscriber-owned utility under the jurisdiction of the utility commission.

SECTION 2. Ratepayer Consumer Advocate (RCA)

(1) There is hereby created a position of “Ratepayer Affordability and Reliability Advocate.”

(2) The governor shall appoint an advocate nominated by the senate. A governor’s rejection of a senate recommendation must be in writing and provide reasons for the rejection. The Senate shall submit another candidate to the governor for appointment in the case of a rejection.

(3) The consumer advocate will serve for a term of four (4) years at a salary provided in the state budget. The advocate shall serve at the will and pleasure of the governor with the concurrence of the senate.

(4) The advocate shall be a practicing attorney and qualified by knowledge and experience to practice in utility regulatory agency proceedings.

(5) The advocate shall apply the advocate’s full efforts to the duties of the office and may not engage in any occupation, practice, profession, or business that would conflict with the duties of the office.

SECTION 3. Duties

(1) The Advocate shall represent all ratepayers with integrity and professionalism in ensuring quality, reliable utility services at the lowest prices possible through dedicated advocacy and creative problem solving.

(2) The Advocate has two main duties: To represent ratepayers (1) by ensuring energy sources that provide the highest level of reliability are given preference over ones that are less reliable and (2) by ensuring that the least costly of the reliable energy sources are chosen over those that are more costly to ratepayers and taxpayers.

(3) A failure to fulfill these responsibilities faithfully is subject to removal by either the Senate or Governo An Advocate can be removed for standard improprieties that apply to individuals holding public office or for a demonstrated failure to uphold the two main duties outlined above.

SECTION 4. Powers

(1) The Advocate serves as a representative of ratepayers, consumers, and the public: via their position as a voting board member on the state regulatory commission, if advisory only, in that role.

(2) Their powers shall be the same as — not less nor more than — any other member of such state regulatory board.

Addition Optional Model Legislation

Some states may choose to create an advisory council as described below rather than appoint an Advocate.

SECTION 7. Advocate Advisory Council

(1) There is created the advisory council to the state utility board. The council consists of a number of persons selected from the state’s congressional districts. Each congressional district must be represented by at least one (1) individual appointed under this section who is a resident of that congressional district. The council shall consist of the number of congressional districts plus one acting as chairman appointed by the state Senate from a list of candidates from the state House.

(2) Members of the council, including those filling vacancies occurring in the council membership, shall be appointed by the senate through the same method as the advocate. All members shall be appointed to a term of four (4) years, except those who have been appointed to fill a vacancy in the council whose term will be the unexpired portion of the term. All members shall serve until their successor has been duly appointed and qualified.

(3) The membership shall be representative of the various sectors of the economy, including, but not limited to agriculture, business, industry, labor, and local government.

(4) Members are entitled to receive per diem and travel expense reimbursement at the standard rates provided for state employees for expenses they incur in the performance of their duties under this chapter subject to the approval of the consumer advocate.