On August 11, 2017 your paper published my letter questioning the awareness of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) of its oversight role in the operations of regulated companies. Since then, the reliability of electric supply from GPL has deteriorated even further. On Mon-day, August 28, 2017, my area experienced seven instances of power interruptions and yesterday, it restarted around 8am and by noon, we had already had three interruptions.
In its reply on August 19, the PUC stated that it was a “creature” of the statute under which it operates, implying that its hands are tied with respect to its oversight functions. However, that is not the case. The said Act, gives the commission the authority to perform regulatory, investigative and enforcement duties (Section 21); the power to initiate and conduct investigations into the operations and standards of service of the utilities (Section 24); oversight over safe and adequate service by the utility (Section 25 & 26); and the prescribed rules for quality and standard of service (Section 31). It would appear that the Act gives the commission the authority it needs to properly regulate the utilities under its control. But it is not exercising this authority. As a result of it not fulfilling its role as regulator, the responsible Minister has recently announced that he will personally investigate the quality-of-service problems plaguing GPL, thus usurping its powers under Section 24 of the Act.
In the absence of proper oversight from the PUC, consumers of electricity are being fed excuses for the power interruptions. The generating arm of the utility (PPDI) blames the company’s transmission and distribution systems (T&D) for the failures, while claiming it has adequate reserves. The utility’s Public Rela-tions representative denies this position and instead explains that rolling load-shedding is meant to compensate for the lack of generating capacity. The latter explanation is more plausible as T&D problems are not characterized by the nature of these cyclical interruptions. The PR representative, then proceeds to incorrectly pronounce that “chronic blackouts” will end from August 26, as more capacity is returned to the system from maintenance activities.
And where is the PUC in all of this? What investigations/hearings has it conducted in this climate of inferior service yet paradoxically generating record levels of revenue? Record-level revenues from marginal increases in sales can only be caused by higher prices (revenues = sales x price). Did the PUC authorize these price increases?
Given these developments at GPL, I still maintain that the PUC is not functioning in accordance with the intent of the Act.
Former Rate Manager
Electric and Natural Gas
Long Island Lighting