It was abundantly and not surprising clear during my first weekend knocking on doors that OPPD’s recent rate restructuring is on many voters’ minds. And rightly so, it garnered a great deal of attention.
To be clear, I think the rate restructuring was disappointing for three main reasons.
First, I witnessed firsthand the fact that public sentiment was strongly against it, but OPPD didn’t seem to seriously consider the perspectives of the public. Yes, there were multiple meetings held, hundreds of comments were submitted via OPPDListens.com, and there were hours of testimony at board meetings. But in the end, it was clear that OPPD already had their mind made up, and the public outcry merely resulted in minor tweaks to what was already planned rather than a true reconsideration of the broader direction. In short, the restructuring felt like a foregone conclusion and the public interaction was the sales job.
Next, the restructuring will adversely impact the poor while benefiting higher income customers. At a time when the economically disadvantaged in our community are already barely able to get by, it’s preposterous to me to think that we should be increasing what they pay while decreasing that of the high income/high consuming users. The end result is one of the more regressive rate structures in the country.
Finally, by pushing more of the consumers’ monthly bill into fixed costs and lowering what they pay per kwh, OPPD is elongating the payback period on investments in energy efficiency. In essence, reducing the economic incentive for their customers to invest in renewables or energy efficiency equipment such as LED lights or a more efficient air conditioning unit.
In all of these cases, what OPPD and its board chose to do are completely the opposite of what I would have done. I would have ensured that the public input and engagement process was meaningful and seriously considered. And I would have advocated for a rate structure that 1) incentivized investments in energy efficiency and conservation and 2) didn't punish the poor and/or energy efficient customers.
OPPD has always thought of itself as a company that sells electricity, which leads to a misguided motivation to sell as much electricity as it can in the same way that a Zappos wants to sell as many pairs of shoes as it can. But the rapidly changing energy industry is putting pressure on OPPD’s outdated business model, and OPPD needs to think of itself as an energy services company – providing more and better services to its customers…not just kilowatts of electricity.