Utility commission investigating power billing

Responding to complaints by Northern Nevada power customers, Nevada's Public Utilities Commission said Thursday it will conduct an investigation into Sierra Pacific Power's billing process.

Cynthia Messina, spokeswoman for the commission, said the issue came up following several consumer sessions related to the company's request to raise rates to recoup money spent for power last summer.

At the meetings several customers complained of excessive bills and faulty meter readings.

"People had issues with the way their bills were; the way they were calculated and the way meters were read," Messina said. "Commissioner (Richard) McIntire thought it would be a good idea to look into it."

Faye Andersen, spokeswoman for Sierra Pacific, said the company had knowledge of the inquiry since a March 27 meeting of the commission and will cooperate by providing all information requested.

She added that the company is not aware of any recent systematic billing irregularities. The commission has requested information about the implementation of the residential rate structures, how the rate structures interact with the cycle billing process, the disposition of revenues associated with the former tiered rate structure, and reading of customer meters.

The investigative report, being conducted by the commission's regulatory operations staff, will be turned over to the commission by May 17.

Although the state attorney general's bureau of consumer advocacy has not weighed in on the investigation, regulatory manager Marilyn Skibinski said the office will keep on eye on developments.

"Our office has also received complaints about consumers' bills," she said. "We will be involved if (the commission) actually opens a docket on it.

"Its an issue that we very aware of and very concerned about."


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