El Paso Electric-Please Explain…
Our local electric utility, El Paso Electric (EPE), just submitted its twenty year operating plan for approval by the Public Regulation Commission. It’s a real wallet buster for consumers, and a head scratcher for anyone who follows the utility industry. If you like history, it makes for a revealing excursion into 1960’s energy industry thinking. If you enjoy true crime stories, there might even be some larceny in it!
Here are just a few of the many plan features that can use some explaining.
Four newly built gas fired power plants dubbed Montana 1-4 are projected to run an average of just 150 hours per year through 2034. When obtaining final regulatory approval to construct the facilities in September 2013, EPE said each plant would operate 3,500 hours per year. The four new plants will cost a total of $370 million to put in service.
Consumers now stand to be charged billions of dollars to keep mostly idle facilities open for forty years. Is this a case of inept planning, or a deliberate deception by EPE? Either way, should customers be asked to pay for it?
EPE, please explain. (And I hope our Attorney General is listening!)
The plan shows five additional existing power plants operating between zero and forty hours per year until they go out of service between 2020 and 2024. That means ratepayers will be stuck with maintenance and financing costs for a total of nine power plants that are idle 99% of the time. And be required to pay EPE an annual 10% return on all that wasted investment to boot!
EPE, please explain some more.