The new consumer advocate should question why FirstEnergy has strong energy efficiency programs in the other states, but not West Virginia. As West Virginia does not have any energy legislation, as a good corporate partner shouldn't this be a priority? Ohio is an example of a Public Service Commission supporting energy efficiency from FirstEnergy, although they are implementing a legislatively passed energy efficiency mandate that West Virginia does not have.
Our elected officials should be more active in cases brought before the Consumer Advocate's office. FirstEnergy could create thousands of jobs and reduce utility bills for consumers by aggressively expanding energy efficiency programs. Is our Consumer advocate tasking FirstEnergy in the development of energy efficiency programs? What percentage of their "new" profits will go toward programs to lower utility bills for lower income households, seniors or schools?
In another issue, Potomac Edison claims there was a "glitch" in the billing system as a result of an upgrade. I am curious as to how far in the weeds the PSC is willing to discuss these alleged "glitches." My concern is the power company will provide inaccurate accounts and our representatives will have no expertise to evaluate them. They will accept what the company tells them as they cannot dispute it. Also how will consumers be compensated for elevated bills they were required to pay? Will consumers now be subjected to elevated/inaccurate estimates through 2014?
In fairness, the new consumer advocate has called for public hearings, and I hope she represents consumers well in this investigation as it affects real people with real pocketbooks. What has been found to date is Potomac Edison has received nearly as many complaints in the first five months of 2013 as they did in all of 2012. Almost half of West Virginia consumers have not been able to have their issues resolved by customer service representatives. I trust our new Consumer Advocate office understands West Virginians deserve improvements in this area.
I agree very much with the Sept. 16 post on The Power Line blog (calhounpowerline.com) that we need to rethink the Consumer Advocate Division. It should truly be an independent office. Perhaps this should be an elected position.
My hope is the new consumer advocate will not agree to one-sided agreements that negatively impact the consumers of West Virginia. PSC board members and the consumer advocate are appointed by the governor. We need officials who are committed to protecting the consumers of West Virginia, not getting political contributions from FirstEnergy. I plan to remember all of this on Election Day, and I would be very interested in hearing more about the vision of the new consumer advocate.
Stewart lives in Inwood.