La. energy customers can expect some refunds soon

Officials say customers at 2 Louisiana energy companies can expect some refunds soon

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Customers at two Louisiana-based energy companies will soon get refunds as credits on their energy bills, officials at a public utilities meeting said Wednesday.

Members of the state's Public Service Commission voted to let Pineville-based electricity provider Cleco Corp. put refunds on its customers' September bills.

Robbyn Cooper, spokeswoman for Cleco said the company's 280,000 customers will be receiving about $12 as a credit because the company earned more than a return on equity cap set by the commission.

"Last year we had an exceptionally cold winter and we had a very hot summer, and that caused people to use their air conditioners and heaters more. Because our customers' usage went up, our earnings went up, so we earned more money than the cap allowed us," Cooper said.

Money earned above the cap will be credited to customers. Cooper said a total of $5 million will be refunded to their customers south of Shreveport, in central Louisiana and parts of the Covington and Slidell area.

The credit consists of two refunds, Cooper said, and the credit will vary per customer because it's based around how much electricity they use. One of them is a customer sharing mechanism that's built into their rate, Cooper said, and around $11.50 of the credit will come from that.

"The more electricity you use, the more you get back," she said.

The other is a direct pass-through to customers covering the facility's fuel costs, she said. The total amount the company spent on fuel between the years 2003 and 2008 was $3.26 billion she said.

"After the commission reviewed that, they determined to disallow $400,000, which means Cleco is going to refund that $400,000 back to customers," she said.

Mike Fontham, special counsel to the commission, said customers of Entergy Corp. subsidiaries in Louisiana should expect a refund after federal regulators decide how much the company owes them. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission found that Entergy, headquartered in New Orleans, improperly sold its electricity to Louisiana customers while charging lower rates in Arkansas.

The roughly 380,000 customers of Entergy Gulf States Louisiana L.L.C. began seeing credits on their June bills because of an earlier, similar, finding involving Entergy subsidiaries in four states.

A June 21 ruling from the federal commission would increase the amount of credits customers are receiving by about the same total as the credits being applied now, but Entergy says the amount has not been calculated yet.

Fontham estimates the additional remedy refunds ordered by the federal commission would be over $40 million for two of Entergy's subsidiaries in Louisiana.

"This is pretty solid. It is an estimate, but these were numbers that were actually identified in the litigation," he said. "It comes up with a pretty darn accurate estimation of the refunds."

Regulators estimate that legal actions in the multi-state "system agreement" have resulted in about $1 billion in refunds for the company's 1 million customers in Louisiana.

The commission voted in January to apply the refund as credits on bills during the summer months when customers increase their energy usage by running their air conditioners.

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