§ 56-602

Conservation and ratemaking efficiency plans

A. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, each natural gas utility shall have the option to file a conservation and ratemaking efficiency plan as provided in this chapter. Such a plan may include one or more residential, small commercial, or small general service classes, but shall not apply to large commercial or large industrial classes of customers. Such plan shall include: (i) a normalization component that removes the effect of weather from the determination of conservation and energy efficiency results; (ii) a decoupling mechanism; (iii) one or more cost-effective conservation and energy efficiency programs; (iv) provisions to address the needs of low-income or low-usage residential customers; and (v) provisions to ensure that the rates and service to non-participating classes of customers are not adversely impacted. Such plan may also include provisions for phased or targeted implementation of rate or tariff design changes, if any, or conservation and energy efficiency programs. The Commission may approve such a plan after such notice and opportunity for hearing as the Commission may prescribe, subject to the provisions of this chapter. Nothing in this subsection shall prevent a natural gas utility from amending a conservation and ratemaking efficiency plan by amending, altering, supplementing, or deleting one or more conservation or energy efficiency programs.

B. The Commission shall approve or deny, within 180 days, a natural gas utility’s initial application for any revenue-neutral conservation and ratemaking efficiency plan that allocates annual per-customer fixed costs on an intra-class basis in reliance upon a revenue study or class cost of service study supporting the rates in effect at the time the plan is filed. A plan filed pursuant to this subsection shall not require the filing of rate case schedules. The Commission shall approve or deny, within 120 days, a natural gas utility’s application to amend a previously approved plan. The Commission shall approve such a plan or amendment if it finds that the plan’s or amendment’s proposed decoupling mechanism is revenue-neutral and is otherwise consistent with this chapter. If the Commission denies such a plan or amendment, it shall set forth with specificity the reasons for such denial and the utility shall have the right to refile, without prejudice, an amended plan or amendment within 60 days, and the Commission shall thereafter have 60 days to approve or deny the amended plan or amendment. The time period for Commission review provided for in this subsection shall not apply if the conservation and ratemaking efficiency plan is filed in conjunction with a rate case using the cost of service methodology set forth in § 56-235.2 or a performance-based regulation plan authorized by § 56-235.6.

C. The Commission shall approve or deny, within 270 days, a natural gas utility’s initial application for any revenue-neutral conservation and ratemaking efficiency plan that allocates per-customer fixed costs on an intra-class basis according to a class cost of service study filed with the plan, when such plan is filed in conjunction with a rate case using the cost of service methodology set forth in § 56-235.2 or a performance-based regulation plan authorized by § 56-235.6. The Commission shall approve or deny, within 120 days, a natural gas utility’s application to amend a plan previously approved pursuant to this subsection. The Commission shall approve such a plan or amendment if it finds that the plan’s or amendment’s proposed decoupling mechanism is revenue-neutral, is consistent with this chapter, and is otherwise in the public interest, including any findings required by § 56-235.2 or 56-235.6. If the Commission denies such a plan or amendment, it shall set forth with specificity the reasons for its denial and the utility shall have the right to refile, without prejudice, an amended plan or amendment within 60 days; the Commission shall thereafter have 60 days to approve or deny the amended plan or amendment.

D. The Commission shall allow any natural gas utility that implements a conservation and ratemaking efficiency plan under this chapter to recover, on a timely basis and through its regulated rates charged to its classes of customers participating in the plan, its entire incremental costs associated with cost-effective conservation and energy efficiency programs that are designed to encourage the reduction of annualized, weather-normalized natural gas consumption per customer. Ratemaking treatment may include placing appropriate capital expenditures for technology and program costs in the respective utility’s rate base, deferral of such interim incremental costs (which costs would not be subject to an earnings test), or recovering the utility’s technology and program costs through another ratemaking methodology approved by the Commission, such as a tracking mechanism. Such conservation and energy efficiency programs may also be jointly conducted or co-sponsored with other utilities, federal, state or local government agencies, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, homebuilders, and other for-profit vendors. Incremental costs recovered pursuant to this subsection shall be in addition to all other costs that the utility is permitted to recover, shall not be considered an offset to other Commission-approved costs of service or revenue requirements, and shall not be included in any computation relative to a performance-based regulation plan revenue sharing mechanism.

E. The Commission shall require every natural gas utility operating under a conservation and ratemaking efficiency plan approved pursuant to this chapter to file annual reports showing the year over year weather-normalized use of natural gas on an average customer basis, by customer class, as well as the incremental, independently verified net economic benefits created by the utility’s cost-effective conservation and energy-efficiency programs during the previous year.

F. The Commission shall grant recovery, on an annual basis, of a performance-based incentive for delivering conservation and energy efficiency benefits, which shall be included in the utility’s respective purchased gas adjustment mechanism. The incentive shall be calculated as a reasonable share of the verified net economic benefits created by the utility’s cost-effective conservation and energy efficiency programs, and may be recovered over a period of years equal to the payback period or discounted to net present value and recovered in the first year. In structuring this incentive, the Commission shall create a reasonable opportunity for a utility to earn up to a 15 percent share of such independently verified net economic benefits upon meeting target levels of such benefits set forth in a plan approved by the Commission. The level of net economic benefits to be used as the basis for such calculation shall be the sum of customer savings less utility costs recovered through subsection D, measured over the number of years of the payback period, rounded up to the next highest year. The incentives authorized by this subsection shall be in addition to any other revenue requirements or rates established pursuant to § 56-235.2 or 56-235.6 and independent of any computation of shared revenues under an approved performance-based regulation plan.

G. Unless the context clearly indicates otherwise, nothing in this chapter shall impair the Commission’s authority under § 56-234.2, 56-235.2, or 56-235.6; provided, however, that notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Commission shall not reduce an authorized return on common equity or other measure of utility profit as a result of the implementation of a natural gas conservation and ratemaking efficiency plan pursuant to this chapter.

History

2008, c. 639.

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