The Chamber of Commerce's report and recommendations on the governance of Gainesville Regional Utilities is among the GRU issues headed to the City Commission on Thursday.
The Chamber is slated to make a presentation on its report Thursday evening.
The report recommends that the City Commission cede decision-making authority over the utility to a nine-member appointed board.
The mayor and another city commissioner would serve on the board, along with four other members appointed by the City Commission. To reflect the fact that some 30 percent of the utility's customers are outside city limits, the Chamber's recommended board would also include one county commissioner and two members appointed by the County Commission.
Among other things, the Chamber also recommended that the city work to lower electric rates and over time phase the transfer of money from GRU to the city's general fund to below 9 percent of the utility's total revenues.
Two other issues touched on in the Chamber report, a concern over the electric rates for businesses and the fuel adjustment charge on electric customers, are on the commission agenda for Thursday afternoon. GRU staff is recommending a new economic incentive for large electric customers. New customers would have to use at least 100,000 kilowatt-hours a month. Existing customers would have to show a 20 percent increase in usage and have a resulting use of more than 100,000 kwh monthly.
The incentive would offer new customers meeting the criteria a 20 percent discount on base electric rates for five years. Existing customers would receive a 15 percent discount on base electric rates for five years.
The fuel adjustment charge has been a point of contention for more than a year. Instead of lowering the charge on customers in recent past years when the utility's actual fuel costs declined, GRU held the charge steady and built up a fund that reached $24.7 million at the end of November to limit future rate increases from the biomass plant.
The City Commission did not publicly discuss or vote on building up that fuel levelization fund until budget meetings before the 2013 budget year. That led to allegations that the city had violated its ordinance regarding the fuel adjustment charge and the levelization fund. The City Attorney's Office released an opinion that did not say whether the practice complied with or violated the ordinance but instead recommended revisions.
A proposed revision staff will present to commissioners Thursday would cap that levelization fund at no more than 10 percent of the utility's actual fuel costs without approval from the City Commission.
The solar feed-in tariff is also on the afternoon agenda. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on how much new capacity to make available in the upcoming calendar and on the rates the utility will pay. At a prior meeting, Commissioner Todd Chase said he would instead like to see the city stop approving new projects for the tariff to relieve upward pressure on electric rates.
From The Gainesville Sun - By Christopher Curry