My turn: AEL&P has performed well for community

Posted: Monday, December 24, 2007

The folks down at the electric company are probably rethinking their rate structure. Otherwise every year at this time, a number of ratepayers will be writing letters. People remember sudden cost increases. Cost savings slide by unnoticed.

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Over the past 40 years, the Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. has performed well for the benefit of this community. Prior to 1965, the provision of electric service in Juneau was dismal. There were three utilities, each with its substantial overhead and high rates. In the mid-1960s, AEL&P began to develop a long-range plan to unify the utilities, move toward hydro generation and pass much of the benefits on to the ratepayers. It absorbed the A.J. generation and transmission facilities; it began purchasing the newly constructed Snettisham project; it then brought the Glacier Highway Electric Association into its operations. Over the years, the savings to the ratepayers have been significant.

Setting a utility's rate structure is a complicated process which is regulated by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. Historically AEL&P has charged its ratepayers less than what it is permitted by law to charge. Its sale of excess power on an interruptible rate to tour ships and a mine permits the company to further offset and reduce its rates. It consistently leaves money on the ratepayer's side of the table. Southeast Alaska is not an easy place to do business. AEL&P's rates usually are close to or below the national average, thereby affording Juneau commerce a rare zone of consistency and stability. It has a competent staff, an experienced crew and is one of the few businesses that is locally owned and managed.

• William G. Ruddy, of Juneau, has 45 years of legal experience involving utility regulatory matters. He has no financial relationship with AEL&P except that of a ratepayer.

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