EPRI Report Adds Nothing to FirstEnergy Billing Mess, Except More Mess

FirstEnergy hired the Electric Power Research Institute to analyze the effectiveness of the company’s bill estimating system.  I’m pretty sure the cost of this “study” will be passed on to us rate payers.  Take a look for yourself, we didn’t get much for our money.

Last night, I got through the executive summary and tried to wade through the body of the report.  What a disaster.  As Keryn notes over at StopPATH WV:

…it seems that FirstEnergy also ran it through the Gibberish translator before approving its final content.  This thing is chock-a-block full of typographical errors, missing words, extraneous words, incorrect words, and incomplete sentences, to that point that the reader is constantly stopping to reach for their secret Gibberish decoder ring.  Here’s just one of the hundreds of sentences that gave me pause.  What does this mean?

When the values are designated as actual, then BSE assumes that they are actual meter reads and treats when according to the
protocols employees in levelization.

Does this mean that EPRI is recommending that FirstEnergy perform surgery on its employees to make them all the same height?

The report just goes on and on like this, for pages and pages.

What is the report’s basic conclusion?

The mean R-value for scenario 1b indicates that on average, across the diverse customer circumstances and load in the test set, the BE Ratio-value estimates are only 14% higher the actual usage.

“Are only” 14% higher than actual usage?  And that’s OK?  Apparently, it’s OK with EPRI because the report states:

Overall, the BE protocols performed well when simulated in a non-production environment.

Those of us out here in the “production environment,” the experience is a little different.  On average, we are being billed for 14% more for electricity than we are actually using.  I doubt many of us out here would say FirstEnergy’s “BE protocols” perform well.

The report also points out a basic fact of FE’s the practice of reading meters every other month, which is currently allowed by the WV PSC:  no customer billings will ever be a direct result of an actual meter reading.  The estimated months are not based on actual readings, so they will always have to be adjusted in the following month, when a meter is actually read.  So the next month’s electric bill will by necessity have to be for the electricity actually metered PLUS an adjustment for the previous month’s estimate.  So customers never get a monthly bill for the actual billing period stated on the electric bill.

But Keryn also found a real gem in the power point slides at the end of the report.  For some reason, FE chose to respond to the EPRI report with a power point show, dated February 6 and February 10.  On page 96 of the overall .pdf file linked above, FirstEnergy states the following:

As such we recognize the need to mitigate any unintended impact to customers in the interim and will as proposed in the settlement: [emphasis mine]

As Keryn said,

Settlement?  What settlement?

Now, FirstEnergy is clearly going to make an offer for some kind of agreed settlement to end the agony of the PSC General Investigation.  We can assume that.  But were there actual settlement discussions in the works with PSC staff and the CAD that we don’t know about?

It has been clear throughout the investigation that FE wants to turn this case into a discussion of what stupid equation it uses to estimate bills.  That discussion is needed, but it is only about 10% of what has gone wrong with FirstEnergy’s merger fiasco.  The problem is not whether some hypothetical equations “perform well.” The problem is that when FirstEnergy bought out Allegheny Energy it systematically destroyed a billing system that was working OK.  FirstEnergy’s management chaos and meter reading cuts caused the problem, not “R values” and “scenarios.”

That said, I think an estimation system that overbills customers by 14% is “performing well” for FirstEnergy’s shareholders, but not for the rest of us.

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