Minimum Bills: An Alternative to High Customer Charges (Colorado PUC)
When the telephone and cable television industries implemented high fixed charges in the past, many customers discontinued service and looked for cheaper alternatives. In some regions, utilities are now surprisingly going down the same path in an attempt to recover fixed costs in an environment characterized by increased customer generation. At a workshop of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, Jim Lazar spoke about minimum bills as an alternative to high fixed monthly customer charges. An effective rate design charges a low, fixed amount per month to recover customer-specific costs, such as metering, billing and collection, service drops, and a share of the line transformer costs. The minimum bill only applies if a customer uses less than a certain amount of power each month. Minimum bills ensure that the distribution utility receives sufficient revenue from each customer, including very low usage customers, but does not cause as large a change in the per-kWh rate—protecting the incentive to conserve energy, securing universal service, and accurately aligning usage rates with log-run marginal costs.