Office of Consumer Counsel
MARY J. HEALEY, Consumer Counsel
Established - 1975
Statutory authority - CGS Sec.16-2a
Central office - Ten Franklin Square,
Average number of full-time employees - 15
Recurring operating expenses - $2,118,379
Capital expenditures - $0
The mission of the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC) is to represent customers of Connecticut’s five regulated utilities - - electric, gas, water, telephone, and to some extent, cable television - - primarily in matters that go before the Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC), and to advocate that they receive the lowest utility rates possible commensurate with the highest level of utility services. This is accomplished mainly through OCC’s participation on behalf of all consumer interests, with regard to public utility matters, in regulatory or judicial proceedings, federal or state, affecting such interests.
The Year in Review 2002-03
The OCC, although an “off budget” organization was not exempt from the budgetary difficulties and experienced significant cutbacks. The OCC was reduced by one-third going from 18 to 12 employees due to layoffs and early retirement. The Communication Specialist and Consumer Information Representative positions were required to be eliminated which has impacted OCC’s ability to do consumer and media outreach.
As competition continues to develop in traditional utility monopolies, the needs of consumers are changing, and the OCC’s efforts to protect consumers’ interests are changing and increasing as well. OCC’s responsibilities are primarily fulfilled through comprehensive analysis of evidence, presentation of testimony, and the development of its legal positions and recommendations in traditional rate and other DPUC proceedings. For the fiscal year 2003, OCC’s advocacy efforts have benefited ratepayers by approximately $250 million.
The OCC was active in legislative proceedings this year as an advocate for continuing a prudent transition in Electric Restructuring which resulted in P.A. 03-135. P.A. 03-135 will require many important proceedings and decisions at the DPUC, and OCC will participate as a Party representing consumers. OCC also supported maintaining full funding for the utility ratepayer-funded Conservation and Load Management Fund (C&LM) and Clean Energy Fund. OCC also is a member of the Energy Conservation Management Board, a statutory entity which has responsibility to advise the major utilities on expenditures of the C&LM funds. The budgetary bill securitized the fund, reducing the amount available for such programs from $100 to $60 million. OCC’s efforts will focus on funding the most effective programs which achieve the fund’s goals with the dollars available.
The OCC has been an active participant in the regulatory review of the State’s two major electric utilities proposal to install some 90 miles of 345kv transmission lines. The OCC’s participation includes advocating least cost solutions to the identified infrastructure needs particularly in Southwest Connecticut.
OCC is an active participant both in Connecticut and the New England region, as well as in Washington, DC in all areas that pertain to Connecticut utility ratepayers. OCC also is an active participant at NEPOOL (New England Power Pool), NEDRI (New England Demand Response Initiative), FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission), and other appropriate venues. The OCC strives to represent its constituents and the state to the best of its ability.
The OCC chairs the Consumer Education Advisory Council as set forth in the electric restructuring law. The Council advises the DPUC’s Outreach Program Coordinator on the development and implementation of the Consumer Education Outreach Program for electric restructuring. The objective of the program is to ensure that electric customers have the information they need to better understand electric utility restructuring, and to participate knowledgeably in a competitive market. In recently enacted legislation (P.A. 03-135) the Electric Education and Outreach Program was ordered to restart and major work has been completed on updating the DPUC website on Restructuring and additional training of its outreach group.
The OCC is an equal opportunity employer committed to the letter and the spirit of affirmative action.