The Vermont Statutes Online
Chapter 005 : STATE POLICY; PLANS; JURISDICTION AND REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF COMMISSION AND DEPARTMENT
Subchapter 001 : GENERAL POWERS(Cite as: 30 V.S.A. § 218)
§ 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 Commission 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 Commission 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 Commission 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 Commission 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 Commission 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 Utility Commission 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 Commission determines use of those rates would cause undue financial hardship for the customer.
(2) By December 31, 2008, the Commission 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 Commission determines that those rates would be appropriate, by a specified date, or as part of its next rate-related appearance before the Commission, or according to a timetable otherwise specified by the Commission. In implementing these rate designs, the Commission 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 Commission 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 Commission 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 Utility Commission shall take any action necessary to enable the State of Vermont and telecommunications companies offering service in Vermont to participate in the federal Lifeline program administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or its agent and also the Vermont Lifeline program described in subdivision (2) of this subsection.
(2) A household that qualifies for participation in the federal Lifeline program under criteria established by the FCC or other federal law or regulation shall also be eligible to receive a Vermont Lifeline benefit for wireline voice telephone service. The Vermont Lifeline benefit established under this subdivision shall be set at an amount not to exceed the benefit provided to a household as of October 31, 2017, or $4.25, whichever is greater, and shall be applied as a supplement to any wireline voice benefit received through participation in the federal Lifeline program. However, in no event shall the aggregate amount of benefits received through the federal and State programs described in this subdivision exceed a household's monthly basic service charge for wireline services, including any standard usage and mileage charges.
(3) A company designated as an eligible telecommunications carrier by the Commission pursuant to 47 U.S.C. § 214(e) shall verify an applicant's eligibility for receipt of federal or State Lifeline benefits as required by federal law or regulation or as directed by the Vermont Agency of Human Services, as applicable. The Agency shall provide the FCC or its agent with categorical eligibility data regarding an applicant's status in qualifying programs administered by the Agency.
(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. As used in 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 for Children and Families shall develop an application form and certification process for obtaining this Lifeline benefit credit.
(d) The Commission 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 Commission, 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 Commission 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 Commission 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) To encourage joint efforts on the part of electric distribution utilities to support renewable energy and to secure stable, long-term contracts beneficial to Vermonters, the Commission may establish standards for preapproving the recovery of costs incurred on a renewable energy plant that is the subject of that joint effort, if the construction of the plant requires a certificate of public good under section 248 of this title and all or part of the electricity generated by the plant will be under contract to the utilities involved in that joint effort.
(4) In this subsection, "plant," "renewable energy," and "new renewable energy" shall be as defined in section 8002 of this title.
(g) Each company subject to the Public Utility Commission'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; 2015, No. 56, § 16; 2017, No. 41, § 2, eff. Nov. 1, 2017.)