The National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates

Resolution 2007-01


Whereas, the provision and promotion of energy efficiency measures are increasingly viewed by state commissions as a necessary component of utility service;

Whereas, many states are now encouraging rate-regulated utilities to adopt energy efficiency programs and other demand-side measures to decrease the number of units of energy each utility’s customers purchase from the utility;

Whereas NASUCA has long supported the adoption of effective energy efficiency programs;

Whereas recent proposals by rate-regulated public utilities for the initiation or expansion of energy efficiency measures have featured utility rate incentives or revenue “decoupling” mechanisms that guarantee utilities a predetermined amount of revenues regardless of the number of units of energy sold;

Whereas, the utilities proposing decoupling measures seek guarantees from public utilities commissions that they will receive their allowed level of revenues;

Whereas, these utilities justify this departure from traditional rate-making principles on the theory they are being asked to help their customers purchase fewer energy units from them by promoting energy efficiency measures and other demand-side measures, thereby reducing their revenues and, consequently, their returns to their shareholders, and that decoupling mechanisms compensate utilities for revenues lost due to conservation;

Whereas, these utilities contend that because these measures reduce their revenues, they have a disincentive to encourage programs that aid their customers in purchasing fewer units of energy;

Whereas, historically, rates have been set in periodic rate cases by matching test-year revenues with test-year expenses, adding pro forma adjustments and allowing the utilities an opportunity to earn a reasonable rate of return on their investments in exchange for a state-protected monopoly;

Whereas revenue guarantee mechanisms allow rate adjustments to occur based upon one element that affects a utility’s revenue requirement, without supervision or review of other factors that may offset the need for such a rate change;

Whereas, historically, rate-regulated utilities were not guaranteed they would earn the allowed return; rather, earnings depended on capable management operating the utilities in an efficient manner;

Whereas, many utilities proposing revenue decoupling request compensation for revenue lost per customer, implying that sales volumes are declining, when in fact these utilities’ total energy sales revenues are stable or increasing;

Whereas, there are a number of factors that may cause a utility to sell fewer units of energy over a period of time, including weather, changing economic conditions, shifts in population, loss of large customers and switches to other types of energy, as well as energy efficiency and other demand-side measures;

Whereas many utilities have been offering cost-effective energy efficiency programs and actively marketing these programs for years without proposing or implementing rate incentives or revenue guarantee mechanisms such as decoupling, and have continued to enjoy financial health;

Whereas past experience has shown that revenue guarantee mechanisms such as decoupling may result in significant rate increases to customers;

Whereas some utilities have referenced the benefit of encouraging energy efficiency programs as a justification for revenue guarantee mechanisms without in fact offering any energy efficiency programs, indicating that the revenue guarantee mechanisms are attractive to utilities for reasons other than their interest in promoting energy conservation;

Whereas past experience has shown that rate increases prompted by revenue guarantee mechanisms such as decoupling are often driven not so much by reduced consumption caused by utility energy efficiency programs, as by reduced consumption due to normal business risks such as changes in weather, price sensitivity, or changes in the state of the economy;

Whereas utilities are better situated than are consumers or state regulators to anticipate, plan for, and respond to changes in revenue prompted by normal business risks, and the shifting of normal business risks away from utilities insulates them from business changes and reduces their incentive to operate efficiently and effectively;

Whereas the traditional ratemaking process has historically compensated utilities for experiencing revenue variations associated with normal business risks;


To continue its long tradition of support for the adoption of effective energy efficiency programs;

And to oppose decoupling mechanisms that would guarantee utilities the recovery of a  predetermined level of revenue without regard to the number of energy units sold and the cause of lost revenue between rate cases;


NASUCA urges Public Utilities Commissions to disallow revenue true-ups between rate cases that violate the matching principle, the prohibition against retroactive ratemaking,  the prohibition against single-issue ratemaking, or that diminish the incentives to control costs that would otherwise apply between rate cases;

NASUCA urges State legislatures and Public Utilities Commissions to, prior to using decoupling as a means to blunt utility opposition to energy efficiency and other demand-side measures, (1) consider alternative measures that more efficiently promote energy efficiency and other demand side measures; (2) evaluate whether a utility proposing the adoption of a revenue decoupling mechanism has demonstrated a commitment to energy efficiency programs in the recent past; and (3) examine whether a utility proposing the adoption of a revenue decoupling mechanism has a history of prudently and reasonably utilizing alternative ratemaking tools;

If decoupling is allowed by any state commission, NASUCA recommends that the mechanism be structured to (1) prevent over-earning and  provide a significant downward adjustment to the utilities’ ROE in recognition of the significant reduction in risk associated with the use of a decoupling mechanism,  (2) ensure the utility engages in incremental conservation efforts, such as including conservation targets and reduced or withheld recovery should the utility fail to meet those targets, and (3) require utilities to demonstrate that the reduced usage reflected in monthly revenue decoupling adjustments are specifically linked to the utility’s promotion of energy efficiency programs.

NASUCA authorizes its Standing Committees to develop specific positions and to take appropriate actions consistent with the terms of this resolution to secure its implementation, with the approval of the Executive Committee of NASUCA.  The Standing Committees or the Executive Committee shall notify the membership of any action taken pursuant to this resolution.

Approved by NASUCA:
Denver, Colorado
June 12, 2007

Submitted by:
NASUCA Consumer Protection Committee
June 11, 2007


  • Ohio
  • Indiana
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming


  • Massachusetts
  • California