As Utility Auditors, we see this kind of outrageous over-billing often. $115 million, in this instance, will be refunded thanks to rarely seen sanctions against this type of behavior.
If you believe your business or investment property has been overbilled – on any utilities – do not hesitate to contact a Professional Utility Auditor – Immediately. Applied Utility Auditors offers no – risk services. We only get paid if you get a refund. Don’t get over your head in overhead.
March 18, 2015 Last updated: Wednesday, March 18, 2015, 5:29 PM
By DAVE SHEINGOLD
Staff Writer |
Electricity users in six Passaic County communities and all of Morris County will see their rates drop slightly in the next few months following a ruling Wednesday by state regulators that sanctioned Jersey Central Power & Light for overbilling customers, but also let the company recoup money spent repairing damage from major storms.
In a unanimous vote at a meeting in Trenton, the Board of Public Utilities ordered JCP&L to refund $115 million to customers through the rate reduction, mostly to cover overcharges for power grid maintenance throughout its northern and central New Jersey territory from 2008 to 2011.
But the board also ordered that ratepayers pay for $736 million JCP&L spent restoring power following Superstorm Sandy and other bouts of severe weather since then that caused blackouts of up to two weeks.
The net result of formulas that parcel out those expenses over varying periods of time will be a $34 million cut in the company’s annual revenue and a drop of 1.2 percent, or $1.68, in its average residential monthly bill, according to the board. The exact month when bills will drop has not been set, but should come this spring, said BPU spokesman Greg Reinert.
JCP&L’s 1.1 million customers include 15,400 in six Passaic County municipalities – Wayne, West Milford, Wanaque, Pompton Lakes, Bloomingdale and Ringwood – and 197,000 in Morris County.
“Today’s order ensures that JCP&L is providing safe and proper service at just and reasonable rates, while also securing and being mindful of the company’s financial integrity,” said BPU President Richard Mroz.
The decision represents a middle-ground between a $207.5 million revenue reduction sought by a state consumer advocacy office and a request by JCP&L for a rate hike to cover increased expenses and storm-related costs.
In January, a state administrative law judge largely sided with claims by the office, known as the Division of Rate Counsel, that JCP&L used complex accounting techniques to return too much profit to its parent company, FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, OH. The judge said the issue of storm costs should be addressed in a separate proceeding.
The BPU, however, combined both matters into one.
The ruling was criticized by Stefanie Brand, director of the Rate Counsel’s office, for rejecting the office’s request for retroactive rate cuts and postponement of storm-cost repayment.
“I’m disappointed,” she said. “It’s still a reduction. But I think they should have taken into account the fact that ratepayers had been paying too much for a number of years. They could have phased this in.” She declined to say if the order would be appealed.
Ronald Morano, a spokesman for JCP&L, said the company would review the order before commenting, but noted that it planned $254 million in improvements this year. Those include new circuits, upgraded utility poles, flood-proofing around power transfer stations and tree-trimming around power lines. The latter effort is aimed at a key problem in the company’s largely suburban and rural territory.
Wednesday’s ruling ends an unusually long-running case involving claims that disputed, in highly arcane terms, the write-offs, equipment depreciation and other accounting techniques used to set rates that generate JCP&L’s revenues. A key issue was whether JCP&L collected too much to cover its federal taxes and then used that money to offset taxes owed by other FirstEnergy subsidiaries.
Brand’s office also accused the company of improperly cutting costs, especially on grid maintenance and tree-trimming. JCP&L responded with a case of its own, seeking rate hikes.
As many New Jerseyans, Pennsylvanians and New Yorkers have come to discover over the winter, the relatively new marketplace for third party suppliers of electricity has not been as great in practice as it may have been in theory.
Many third party suppliers, it seems, have been inexplicably driving up prices on consumers, claiming increased costs due to winter weather — in spite of the non-inflated prices from the primary supplier. A Forbes Contributor went so far as to proclaim this trend a “new scam.”
How are they getting away with this dodgy practice? The marketplace, after all, allows customers to switch suppliers, right?
Unfortunately, switching suppliers can take months to finalize, and some of these companies seem to be exploiting that fact while banking on the docility of others. Late notices for bills threaten power shut-offs and this can also serve in the interest of these price-jackers as people are afraid to take any corrective action.
DID YOU KNOW that utility companies often have more than one rate for commercial/business clients?
GUESS WHAT. They don’t hand out the best rates automatically. Customers must seek better rates for themselves.
The process of finding the best and most appropriate rate can be tedious – and frankly – as a business owner, you’re already busy running your own business.
This is where Applied Utility Auditors can help. We find overcharges for 80% of all clients.
You might be reading this because your business was referred to AUA or because we’ve contacted you about conducting a utility audit and you have questions. We’re fortunate that the majority of our customers come from happy client referrals.
Here are a few quick points:
First, when you’re with Applied Utility Auditors, you’re in good hands. Our team has over 75 years of collective experience in auditing:
Professionals can visit your site to identify wasted energy and inefficient equipment. Even recommend shifting some production to off hours to lower your electrical bill. Contact your electricity and gas providers who often provide this service for FREE.
3. Review TeleCostly Services.
Nearly 90% of telecom bills are incorrect. A Telecom Bill Auditor can help you recover over payments – and guide you, if necessary toward a more effective and appropriate provider or plan.
Activate lights by motion detectors or turn off lights when not needed. Consider disconnecting lights from unoccupied areas of facilities and replacing them with tap-light.
5. Soft on the Wallet Software.
Buy used software – Many online auction sites (like Ebay) have a good selection. Make an investment in your company’s future by turning to the cloud. Cloud Hosted Applications can save you tons of money in ongoing expenses.
6. Stuff the Cracks.
Improve your insulation and seal air leaks on the premises to reduce HVAC costs.
7. On-site Storage.
Stop using offsite storage – make a place on-site or consider disposing or selling it – Remember, out of sight and out of mind does not mean it’s not still out of pocket.
8. There’s No Place Like Home-Base.
Stop all non-essential travel and stay close to the office – use the phone, video conferencing or Internet meetings (where documents can be shared between computers).
9. Cash in on Space.
Lease out unused office space as office condos or unused facility space as storage space.
10. Don’t Pay for the Paper
Many businesses still pay for paper publications out of sheer habit. Magazine, newsletter and newspaper subscriptions can often be converted to electronic subscriptions for less or for free.