My response to the Opinion piece on the WhatsUp Newport site today:

The writer of this opinion piece seems naïve to me. Here is my opinion with questions that the ratepayers should be asking in regard to the Council vote on the Community Choice Aggregate Program that is on the docket for this Wednesday.

  1. During the workshop with consultant group Good Energy LP, Council was told that there would be “public outreach” to present this CCA Program to the public. This has not happened yet. I know no one who has been contacted. 
  2. I called PUC attorney Cindy Wilson-Price who said that the PUC has determined that it is “legal to use the fee revenues for a VARIETY of uses including a special rate for low income users.” She said these same users already get a special rate if applied for. Has anyone ever told people publicly that they are eligible for this rate? What about our middle class that is diminishing every year in Newport? Again, they get short-changed? 
  3. I called Federal Regulatory Energy Commission officials who say this CCA 

may be illegal.

  1. If this is such a good thought-out program, why are users forced to “opt out” ––answer from Julian Dash: “Because  otherwise it will not work.” Of course not, because most ratepayers have not signed up to “opt in” as they are allowed to do now.
  2. How many ratepayers would know they can “opt out”? Few people read their bills where the opt-out card would be included.  The docket item says that “participants may “opt out” of the program at any time in the cover sheet, yet on page 7 it states “Consumers will have 33 days from the date of the mailing to return the reply card if they wish to opt out of the Program…”
  3. How will the city use these newly collected funds of “up to 1-cent per KWh” that will be charged to them? On the docket it states: “The administrative costs of the Program will be funded through a per kilowatt-hour aggregation fee that will be paid by the competitive supplier to the Aggregation Consultant…(ratepayer money). So—big question: Who will determine the use of this fund for the next 20 years? The City Manager or a Committee chosen by whom? 
  4. My last electric bill showed a .10882 charge for the Supply Energy Charge per KWh for our power source. This FEE could add 10% to that part of the bill.
  5. Ratepayers today can already “opt in” to use and pay for renewable energy. SO—how many have done so? Obviously few or the docket item would not be asking Council to approve an “opt out” program to charge ratepayers this extra fee. I cannot comprehend how this Council can vote to FORCE ratepayers to enter into this program with so little public information.

The City should be asking FERC to weigh in on the legality of this program which will be of no cost to the city or ratepayers. 

This City Council voted 6-1 to enter us into a Net Metering Program. I bet few in Newport read or even know what the program is and that the city will be receiving extra money from this electric program already—while we ratepayers will have to make up the difference. As former Attorney General Pat Lynch has said, “The only thing ‘Green’ about it is the money made by developers and politicians feeding off public subsidies.” 

Let us hope that Newport ratepayers in all energy classes know what is happening and how it will affect them. People still have the right to know where their money is spent and the right to choose where it goes. 

I think Newport voters and ratepayers should be able to decide on this 20-year energy commitment program that will affect them for so many years. It should not be a decision made by 7 Council members and the City Manager.

Kate Leonard   

Newport City Council 

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