CITY ELECTRIC COMPANY
SOUTH JERSEY GAS COMPANY
BPU Docket No. EX00020091
Atlantic County Library
451 Egg Harbor Road
Hammonton, New Jersey 080837
May 18, 2004
Good evening. My name is Robert Rivas and I am an attorney representing the New Jersey Division of the Ratepayer Advocate. Our office was created by the New Jersey Legislature to represent ratepayers in cases such as this where a utility seeks an increase in rates or a change in services.
In compliance with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“BPU” or “Board”) Orders dated April 30, 2003 and July 16, 2003, Atlantic City Electric Company d/b/a Conectiv Power Delivery (“Atlantic Electric”) and South Jersey Gas Company (“South Jersey”) individually filed proposals on April 1, 2004 with the Board requesting an increase in their electric and/or gas rates to recover the costs of the Permanent Universal Service Fund (“USF”) program. The USF Program was established by the Board pursuant to the New Jersey Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act to assist qualifying low-income customers in paying their energy bills.
On June 18, 2003, the Board established a statewide program through which funds are collected from all energy customers through a uniform rate system. The New Jersey Department of Human Services (“DHS”) serves as administrator of the funds and authorizes the disbursements to benefit eligible energy customers. Based on the information that is known to date, the 2004-2005 USF rate is proposed to collect $105.5 million on a statewide basis.
In the Atlantic Electric filing, the Company proposed an increase to its electric customers of .0887 cents per kilowatt-hour of usage. The impact on a typical monthly residential bill reflecting 750 kilowatt-hours of usage would be 67 cents, an increase of approximately seven tenths of one percent.
In the South Jersey filing, the Company proposed an increase to its natural
gas customers of 0.62 cents per therm. The impact on an average monthly bill
for a typical residential heating customer, based on 100 therms of usage, would
be 62 cents, or approximately one half of one percent.
In the event the DHS or the Board should modify the USF Program prior to July 1, 2004 to increase benefits to participants or otherwise increase the costs of the program, both Atlantic Electric and South Jersey have requested authorization to include such additional costs in the July 1, 2004 rate change.
Both have also requested authorization to automatically implement further rate increases if the DHS or the Board should modify the USF Program in a manner that increases benefit levels or other costs by at least $5 million after July 1, 2004. As proposed by Atlantic Electric and South Jersey, the utilities would provide 30 days prior written notice of any such rate increases to the Board and the Division of the Ratepayer Advocate. Any such increases would be reconciled in the utilities’ next scheduled annual USF filing, to be made no later than April 1, 2005.
Atlantic Electric states that for every $5 million over the currently estimated $105.5 million in 2004-2005 USF Program costs, the Company’s bills would increase by approximately 0.04%, or an additional 4 cents per month above the increase mentioned earlier for a residential electric customer using 750 kilowatt-hours per month.
South Jersey states that for every $5 million over the currently estimated $105.5 million in 2004-2005 USF Program costs, the Company’s bills would increase by approximately 0.03% or 4 cents per month above the increase mentioned earlier for a residential gas customer using 100 therms per month and 1,200 therms annually.
Our office is engaged in a complete review of the filings by Atlantic Electric and South Jersey based on the information that is being supplied and updated by the Companies. We have retained the services of expert consultants to assist us in our review. The Ratepayer Advocate's inquiry is focused on the critical issues of whether the proposals allow ratepayers to pay the lowest rates possible consistent with the Board’s Order.
The Board will make the final decision regarding the proposals.
The purpose of today’s hearing is for you, the customer, to voice your opinion, relate your experiences and offer comments about your Company’s rates and any service problems you may be experiencing. It is important that you express your views so they may become part of the record on which the Board of Public Utilities will base its decisions. The Ratepayer Advocate also needs to hear your views. Your active participation is strongly encouraged to help in our evaluation of the Companies’ proposals and our preparations.
This hearing is being transcribed and your comments will become part of the record. I would like to reiterate the importance of your participation so that the Ratepayer Advocate can have a clear record of your concerns and interests.
On behalf of the Ratepayer Advocate, I would like to thank you for attending tonight’s hearing.
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