RCA sets HEA deregulation election rules
The Regulatory Commission of Alaska has issued an order acknowledging a plan by Homer Electric Association to ballot its members on whether to become exempt from regulation by the commission. The Sept. 1 order sets the rules under which the ballot must be conducted.
Although as a public utility HEA requires a certificate of public necessity and convenience from the commission, under state statutes the utility can opt out of commission regulation provided that a majority of the utility’s members vote for deregulation. The idea is that regulation of the utility’s operations passes from the commission to the utility’s board, which is in turn elected by the utility’s membership.
In compliance with state law, HEA plans to mail ballots to its members along with electricity bills sent out during October. Utility members will have to return the ballots within 30 days of receipt. Approval of the deregulation move requires a simple majority but at least 15 percent of the membership must vote.
The commission requires samples of the ballot mailing prior to the election, and, to ensure that all returned ballots meet the timing deadlines, requires the use of distinctive envelopes for different groups of members who will receive ballots at different times. The commission says that it will hire an accounting firm to process and count the ballots and will certify the election within 60 days after all of the ballots have been received, or by Dec. 27. HEA hopes that deregulation, if approved by its membership, will go into effect on Jan. 1.
In its order the commission has also agreed to maintain the confidentiality of information obtained during the election process about HEA’s members.
HEA sees deregulation as a move to local control, eliminating the cost and time involved in going through commission rate cases, thus enabling the utility’s board to make immediate decisions over issues such as implementing new electricity sources and making changes to electricity rates. Having already notified its members about the election, the utility is holding public meetings about the deregulation initiative in Homer on Sept. 28 and in Kenai on Sept. 29.
During a commission public meeting on Aug. 24 some commissioners asked Homer Electric to make sure that it presents complete and accurate information to its members about the background to the deregulation proposal.
- ALAN BAILEY