The Vermont Statutes Online

Title 30: Public Service

Chapter 5: POWERS AND DUTIES OF DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SERVICE AND PUBLIC SERVICE BOARD AS TO COMPANIES OTHER THAN RAILROADS AND AIRCRAFT

Sub-Chapter 1: General Powers

30 V.S.A. § 218. Jurisdiction over charges and rates



§ 218. Jurisdiction over charges and rates

(a) When, after opportunity for hearing, the rates, tolls, charges, or schedules are found unjust, unreasonable, insufficient, or unjustly discriminatory, or are found to be preferential or otherwise in violation of a provision of this chapter, the Board may order and substitute therefor such rates, tolls, charges, or schedules, and make such changes in any regulations, measurements, practices, or acts of such company relating to its service, and may make such order as will compel the furnishing of such adequate service as shall at such hearing be found by it to be just and reasonable. This section shall not be construed to require the same rates, tolls, or charges from any company subject to supervision under this chapter for like service in different parts of the State, but the Board in determining these questions shall investigate local conditions and its final findings and judgment shall take cognizance thereof. This section does not prohibit a telecommunications company from filing tariffs that condition the availability of an intrastate service upon subscription to an interstate or unregulated service from the same or an affiliated company; provided that an incumbent local exchange carrier shall provide a plan to allocate reasonably revenue between the regulated intrastate service and other services. The Board shall retain the authority to review the tariff filing to determine whether it is just and reasonable.

(b) The Department of Public Service shall propose, and the Board through the establishment of rates of return, rates, tolls, charges, or schedules shall encourage the implementation by electric and gas utilities of energy-efficiency and load management measures which will be cost-effective for the utilities and their customers on a life cycle cost basis. The Board shall approve rate designs to encourage the efficient use of natural gas and electricity, including consideration of the creation of an inclining block rate structure for residential rate customers with an initial block of low-cost power available to all residences.

(1) To implement the requirements of this subsection, the Public Service Board shall continue its investigation of the following:

(A) the parameters for residential inclining block rate designs;

(B) alternative rate designs, such as critical peak pricing programs or more widespread use of time-of-day rates, that would encourage more efficient use of electricity;

(C) the possible inclusion of exemptions from otherwise applicable inclining block rates or rate designs to encourage efficiency for situations in which special health needs or another extraordinary situation presents such a significant demand for electricity that the Board determines use of those rates would cause undue financial hardship for the customer.

(2) By December 31, 2008, the Board shall issue a report and plan for implementation based upon the results of its investigation. The plan shall require each retail company to upgrade its rates as necessary to implement new rate designs appropriate to encourage efficient energy use, which shall include residential inclining block rates, if the Board determines that those rates would be appropriate, by a specified date, or as part of its next rate-related appearance before the Board, or according to a timetable otherwise specified by the Board. In implementing these rate designs, the Board shall consider the appropriateness of phasing in the rate design changes to allow large users of energy a reasonable opportunity to employ methods of conservation and energy efficiency in advance of the full effect of the changes.

(3) Smart grid. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, an applicant may propose and the Board may approve or require an applicant to adopt a rate design that includes dynamic pricing, such as real-time pricing rates. Under such circumstances, the Board may alter or waive the notice and filing provisions that would apply otherwise under section 225 of this title, provided the applicant ensures that each customer receives sufficient advance notice of the time-of-day usage rates.

(c)(1) The Public Service Board shall take action, including the setting of telephone rates, enabling the State of Vermont to participate in the Federal Communications Commission telephone Lifeline program. The Board shall set one or more residential basic exchange Lifeline telephone service credits, for those persons eligible to participate in the Federal Communications Commission Lifeline program.

(2) A person shall be eligible for the Lifeline benefit who meets the Department for Children and Families means test of eligibility, which shall include all persons participating in public assistance programs administered by the Department. The Department for Children and Families shall verify this eligibility, in compliance with Federal Communications Commission requirements.

(A) The benefit under this subdivision shall be equal to the full subscriber line charge, plus an amount equal to the larger of:

(i) 50 percent of the monthly basic service charge, including 50 percent of all mileage charges and, if the Board determines after notice and opportunity for hearing that their inclusion will make Lifeline benefits more comparable in different areas, 50 percent of the usage cost arising from a fixed amount of monthly local usage; and

(ii) $7.00 per month;

(B) provided that in no event shall the amount of the monthly credit exceed the monthly basic service charge, including any standard usage and mileage charges.

(3) A person shall also be eligible for the Lifeline benefit who submits to the Commissioner for Children and Families an application containing any information and disclosure of information authorization necessary to process the Lifeline credit. Such application shall be filed with the Commissioner on or before June 15 of each year and shall be signed by the applicant under the pains and penalties of perjury. A person shall be eligible who is 65 years of age or older whose modified adjusted gross income as defined in 32 V.S.A. § 6061(5) for the preceding taxable year was less than 175 percent of the official poverty line established by the federal Department of Health and Human Services for a family of two published as of October 1 of the preceding taxable year. A person shall be eligible whose modified adjusted gross income as defined in 32 V.S.A. § 6061(5) for the preceding taxable year was less than 150 percent of the official poverty line established by the federal Department of Health and Human Services for a family of two published as of October 1 of the preceding taxable year. In the case of sickness, absence, disability, excusable neglect, or when, in the judgment of the Secretary of Human Services good cause exists, the Secretary may extend the deadline for filing claims under this section. The provisions of 32 V.S.A. § 5901 shall apply to such application. The Secretary of Human Services shall perform income verification. Upon enrollment in the program, and for each period of renewal, such participant shall receive the credit for 12 ensuing months.

(A) The benefit under this subdivision shall be equal to the full subscriber line charge, plus an amount equal to the larger of:

(i) 50 percent of the monthly basic service charge, including 50 percent of all mileage charges and, if the Board determines after notice and opportunity for hearing that their inclusion will make Lifeline benefits more comparable in different areas, 50 percent of the usage cost arising from a fixed amount of monthly local usage; and

(ii) $7.00 per month.

(B) The amount of the monthly credit pursuant to subdivision (A) of this subdivision (3) shall not exceed the monthly basic service charge, including any standard usage and mileage charges.

(4) Notwithstanding any provisions of this subsection to the contrary, a subscriber who is enrolled in the Lifeline program and has obtained a final relief from abuse order in accordance with the provisions of 15 V.S.A. chapter 21 or 33 V.S.A. chapter 69 shall qualify for a Lifeline benefit credit for the amount of the incremental charges imposed by the local telecommunications company for treating the number of the subscriber as nonpublished and any charges required to change from a published to a nonpublished number. Such subscribers shall be deemed to have good cause by the Secretary of Human Services for the purpose of extending the application deadline in subdivision (3) of this subsection. For purposes of this section, "nonpublished" means that the customer's telephone number is not listed in any published directories, is not listed on directory assistance records of the company, and is not made available on request by a member of the general public, notwithstanding any claim of emergency a requesting party may present. The Department shall develop an application form and certification process for obtaining this Lifeline benefit credit. Upon enrollment in the program, such participant shall receive the Lifeline benefit credit until the end of the calendar year. Renewals shall be for a period of one year.

(5) Repealed.]

(d) The Board may permit recovery in a company's rates of all or a reasonable portion of the company's expenditures directly related to aesthetic improvements of utility substations, provided that such aesthetic improvements are incidental to other necessary expenditures at or in the vicinity of the substation.

(e) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, the Board, on its own motion or upon petition of any person, may issue an order approving a rate schedule, tariff, agreement, contract, or settlement that provides reduced rates for low income electric utility consumers better to assure affordability. For the purposes of this subsection, "low income electric utility consumer" means a customer who has a household income at or below 150 percent of the current federal poverty level. When considering whether to approve a rate schedule, tariff, agreement, contract, or settlement for low income electric utility consumers, the Board shall take into account the potential impact on, and cost-shifting to, other utility customers.

(f) Regulatory incentives for renewable generation.

(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an electric distribution utility subject to rate regulation under this chapter shall be entitled to recover in rates its prudently incurred costs in applying for and seeking any certificate, permit, or other regulatory approval issued or to be issued by federal, State, or local government for the construction of new renewable energy to be sited in Vermont, regardless of whether the certificate, permit, or other regulatory approval ultimately is granted.

(2) The Board is authorized to provide to an electric distribution utility subject to rate regulation under this chapter an incentive rate of return on equity or other reasonable incentive on any capital investment made by such utility in a renewable energy generation facility sited in Vermont.

(3) For the purpose of this subsection, "renewable energy" and "new renewable energy" shall be as defined in section 8002 of this title.

(g) Each company subject to the Public Service Board's jurisdiction that distributes electrical energy shall have in place a rate schedule for street lighting that provides an option under which efficient streetlights, including light-emitting diode (LED) lights, are installed on company-owned fixtures. These rate schedules also shall include a separate option under which customers may own street lighting and install efficient streetlights, including LED lights, on customer-owned fixtures. (Amended 1959, No. 329 (Adj. Sess.), § 39(b), eff. March 1, 1961; 1981, No. 245 (Adj. Sess.), § 1; 1985, No. 13, eff. April 11, 1985; 1985, No. 48, § 2; 1985, No. 176 (Adj. Sess.), eff. May 13, 1986; 1989, No. 146 (Adj. Sess.); 1991, No. 239 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. June 1, 1992; 1995, No. 99 (Adj. Sess.), § 7; 1997, No. 135 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 1999, No. 147 (Adj. Sess.), § 4; 1999, No. 152 (Adj. Sess.), § 273; 1999, No. 157 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 5, 16; 2003, No. 98 (Adj. Sess.), § 2; 2005, No. 174 (Adj. Sess.), § 58; 2003, No. 208 (Adj. Sess.), § 11; 2007, No. 92 (Adj. Sess.), §§ 13, 13a; 2009, No. 45, § 6, eff. May 27, 2009; 2009, No. 78 (Adj. Sess.), § 23, eff. April 15, 2010; 2011, No. 47, § 20f, eff. May 25, 2011; 2011, No. 139 (Adj. Sess.), § 51, eff. May 14, 2012; 2013, No. 105 (Adj. Sess.), § 1.)