Commission approves order on PSO’s February 2021 storm costs
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) today issued an order approving a plan enabling Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO) to recover fuel costs from the February 2021 winter storm. Today’s decision also requires the company to apply any other proceeds it receives for the storm directly to consumers’ bills to lower customers’ fuel charge, and requires PSO to take steps to improve its fuel supply plans to protect customers in the future.
Commission Chairman Dana Murphy said today’s decision uses the state’s securitization law to avoid a customer charge that many would not be able to pay.
“State law allows regulated utilities to recover their fuel costs, at no profit, through a separate monthly charge on the bill. But simply passing through the $675 million of the Commission-audited PSO fuel costs from the February 2021 winter storm as is normally done would have resulted in an estimated charge of $476 in one month for the average residential PSO customer. Securitization spreads the cost out over 20 years, reducing the monthly charge to $4.06.
“As with the earlier fuel cost/securitization cases from last February’s storm, this is a very difficult decision reached only after months of sworn testimony, careful review of the evidence and audits performed by the Commission’s Public Utility Division,” Murphy said.
“It is vitally important that every step possible be taken to reduce the chances of a repeat of the natural gas market turmoil last February. It is a market that is outside the authority of the OCC,” Murphy continued. “Federal authorities and the Oklahoma Attorney General are investigating that market, and the OCC will continue to work with regulated utilities on steps that could be taken to improve their fuel supply planning.”
Commissioner Todd Hiett said it’s important to not to lose sight of the critical need for utility service.
“This debt was incurred during the winter storm for natural gas purchases to maintain electric generation and protect life and property. Now the cost must be paid,” Hiett said.
“It is painful for all of us to bear the additional costs from the storm, but loss of heat leading to home damage and possibly loss of life is what would have resulted if these audited purchases had not been made,” Hiett continued.
A chart comparing PSO’s securitized monthly charge with other methods is attached.
Commissioner Bob Anthony issued a dissenting opinion in the case.