Grid operator’s 9.3 percent budget hike draws Conn. protest

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority said Wednesday the state will file a protest with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission against ISO New England Inc.’s 9.3 percent budget increase that will be paid for by electric customers.
ISO-NE operates New England’s regional transmission grid and electricity markets.  Currently, no New England public utility commission has any formal oversight role regarding ISO-NE’s budget, even though ISO-NE is funded directly and indirectly by New England ratepayers. Connecticut officials are particularly concerned the grid operator has added 100 high-paying jobs in the last five years.
Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island, also asked FERC to require ISO-NE to file its budget with New England state utility commissions 60 days prior to filing with FERC.
“Connecticut’s electric rates are among the highest in the nation. FERC needs to determine why ISO-NE seeks to increase its burden on ratepayers by nearly 10 percent, when electricity demand is flat or declining,” Attorney General Jepsen said. “Connecticut and other New England states should have the opportunity to review the ISO-NE budget and provide input on whether the agency is acting reasonably to control costs,” he said.
Arthur H. House, PURA Chairman, said that “the ratepayers who pay ISO-NE’s expenses must have a meaningful opportunity to review ISO-NE’s annual budgets.  The current system with no required state regulator review has resulted in unchecked growth by the ISO.  FERC should receive and consider state utility regulator input from states actually served by ISO-NE before issuing any decisions approving annual budgets.”
Highlights of ISO-New England’s budget and operational highlights:
  • Operating budget of $165 million, up almost 9.3 percent over its $151 million budget this year.
  • More than 80 percent of ISO-NE’s budget goes to staff and outside professional services.
  • The number of full-time employees also has increased from 180 in 1997 to 563 proposed for 2013.
  • If approved, ISO-NE will have added 100 full-time positions just in the past five years.
  • In 2012, 275 of the 524 ISO-NE’s employees were paid more than $100,000 annually as base pay.
  • Employees last year received an average yearly merit bonus of 9 percent per employee.
Public comments on ISO-NE’s 2013 rate increase must be filed with the FERC by Nov. 30, 2012.  FERC will then decide whether to hold a hearing or simply allow the rate increase to go into effect on Jan.1, 2013.
Source: Press Release Conn. Agencies
Rob Varnon