BIPCo to consider appeal of PUC ruling

Fri, 08/11/2017 - 10:00am

The Board of Directors of the Block Island Power Company is weighing its options in the wake of a decision by the R.I. Public Utilities Commission stating local ratepayers must bear the entire $1.8 million cost of the new substation built by National Grid. The Board can appeal the decision to the Rhode Island State Supreme Court, or it can ask the PUC to formally investigate why the final cost of the substation was about $1.3 million more than originally forecast. It may do both.

That substation, part of the delivery system of the Block Island Wind Farm, was originally estimated to cost $550,000. That estimate was never altered until the day before a PUC rate case hearing held on Thursday, July 27. The new estimate caused BIPCo lawyers and representatives to scramble at the last minute to revise what rate to apply for in front of the PUC. 

“The Commission voted in favor of Grid,” President Jeffery Wright emailed The Block Island Times the day of the ruling. “We will debate an appeal at our next Board of Directors meeting. I respect the Commissioners’ decision, but am disappointed on behalf of our customers. A ruling in our favor today would have resulted in a reduction of our transmission rate by about 2.6 cents/kWh, more than 20 percent of the 12.44 cents/kWh we are charged today,” 

Wright said an investigation into the matter may be part of the ruling issued by the PUC. When the PUC “voted in Grid’s favor, [Commissioner Marion Gold] was the one who brought up and ordered the PUC staff and the Division [of Public Utilities and Carriers] to investigate the issue.” While he did not want to speak for the entire BIPCo Board, Wright said, “I suspect we’re going to appeal it and hold out some hope that the investigation leans in our favor in some way.” The final PUC decision on the matter has not yet been posted on the PUC website.

The next BIPCo Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 16 at 4 p.m. at the Power Company. It is open to the public, but the one item on the agenda, a discussion on the appeal, will be held in closed session.