POSTED: Friday, September 16, 2011 - 4:28pm
UPDATED: Sunday, September 18, 2011 - 3:14pm
EL PASO - City politics may be driving up your electric rates. As you know, city council representatives are questioning El Paso Electric about what we pay for power. In response, the electric company filed a report with the government that shows we could end up paying more for electricity.
El Paso Electric's stock prices fell this week after city council announced their plans to investigate the electric rates. That prompted the electric company to file a report with the federal government. It shows they're going to file to increase electric rates because of what city council is doing.
"We were not planning on filing for a rate increase at this time. We were planning on waiting until we completed our next generating plant, but we think we can justify a rate increase currently and don't think that's necessarily a good thing for our customers," Senior Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer David Carpenter said.
Carpenter says the proposed increase is not in retaliation for the investigation. Instead, he says it's justified because of new investments El Paso Electric has made. The power company also wrote in the report that they believe city councils actions are politically motivated.
"It's always somewhat good politics, I guess, to say electric rates are too high," Carpenter said.
The investigation started after council members noticed the power company making a larger profit than they were supposed to. Carpenter says the higher profit is a result of the weather.
"When the weather is hot people use more electricity, and when they use more electricity we make more money," he said.
Carpenter admitted electric rates look high, but he says they need to be because El Paso has low usage rates and if the rate was even lower, the electric company wouldn't be able to sustain itself. He also says despite the rates looking high, the company has made sure that bills stay low.
"I would rather have a low bill and a high rate, than a high rate and a high bill both," he said.
Carpenter says El Pasoans will more than likely have to pay more because if El Paso Electric and city council don't agree on the findings of the investigation, it will go to the state, and he says the state will likely allow the company to raise its rates because of all the new power plants and equipment the company has provided.
We spoke with Council Member Courtney Niland, and she says the investigation into the electric rates has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with them not wanting to be competitive.
We'll keep following the story and let you know what happens.