I write concerning the activities of the new monopoly utility Green Mountain Power. GMP has announced a rate decrease of .4 of 1 percent, or about 40 cents a month for someone with a $100 a month bill. This rate decrease could have been 2 or 3 times as big if the Public Service Board hadn't allowed this corporation to take most of the initial cost savings of the merger of GMP and CVPS.
And if the PSB had ordered GMP to repay the $21 million from the customer bailout of CVPS directly to ratepayers we could be getting a one time credit on our bills of perhaps $150 each. Instead, that rate decrease is smaller still because GMP is charging us a rate of return on their initial efficiency investments of the $21 million that they retained. In future years, they will also be able to force ratepayers to repay the costs of some or all of those investments. In this way, not only do we not get paid back, we have to pay GMP a return on efficiency investments that they make with our money, and then repay them the costs. I do not consider that a payback.
If I am re-elected, I plan to take legislative action to rectify this situation. At the very least GMP must be prevented from taking more money from us under the guise of returning it. At best, they will be required to return the $21 million value directly to ratepayers despite the PSB order.
GMP is moving ahead with the installation of wireless Smart Meters. Citizens can opt out of this system at no charge, whether they have safety, health, or privacy concerns.
The "Smart Grid" electrical distribution system holds the promise of efficiency. However, GMP might have realized much of this with a version of Smart Meters using the electrical lines. The wireless version uses radio frequencies, and they are subject to computer hacking just like cell phone or wi fi transmissions. GMP probably cannot make these transmissions totally secure. In fact, a company that makes the software to keep the systems secure was just itself hacked into. At some point it might be possible for someone to hack into the system and interfere with your account: they might even be able to turn off your electricity.
If you have concerns about the effects of the GMP merger on our rates, about the missing $21 million, or about the Smart Meters, remember that you can ask every candidate for office to whom you speak where they stand on these issues. We need regulation of this utility that puts the interests of Vermonters first. You have more power than you think.
And for those voters in the Mountain Towns, I would suggest taking a hard look at Tim Goodwin for state representative. I think that his service to his community and his expertise as an accountant would make him a very useful partner in any initiative to reform state finances, or to evaluate how health insurance may be financed, which are also important issues.
Rep. Cynthia Browning