Delaware’s Bloomdoggle

Filed in Delaware by on March 24, 2014

Bloom energy surcharge

As I paid my electric bill last month, I came across a puzzling charge of $5.36 that I couldn’t quite explain. Naturally, I called Delmarva Power’s customer service number, and the nice woman on the line told me the “Transmission Capacity Charge” I was being billed for was the surcharge going to Bloom Energy.

It’s official – I’m a venture capitalist! I hope my mom is proud.

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About the Author ()

Rob Tornoe is a local cartoonist and columnist, and can be seen in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Press of Atlantic City, The News Journal, and the Dover Post chain of newspapers. He's also a contributor to Media Matters and WHYY. Web site: Twitter: @RobTornoe

Comments (4)

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  1. Sussex Solar says:

    Comments provided to Aaron Nathans after glowing Bloom report in the News-Journal in Sept 2012:

    Your report regarding the insidious Bloom Energy ‘ Bring Jobs to Delaware’ investment scheme is appreciated even though you obviously have to go ‘neutral’ and side with Markell’s team in order to maintain receiving any sort of printable comments from a government official. It appears that no one on the Bloom side is saying much in public which is understandable considering the outstanding government grants and the generous Delmarva ratepayer subsidies they are receiving – guaranteed for 21 years!

    The lawsuit referred to by Geoff Sawyer by a rival cell manufacturer is necessary if there is any hope to reverse the current trend of corporate socialism practiced by all levels of government hidden under the guise of job creation, economic development, etc. My opinion is that they are correct to challenge this whole behind-the-scenes deal with Bloom as a violation of the Interstate Commerce Clause in that Delaware enacted a State law that discriminates against out-of-state commerce. Specifically, by stating that only a fuel cell manufactured in state by Bloom qualifies as a ‘renewable’ power source in the state. Unfortunately, the Markell group has thoroughly briefed the right Federal judge by now (hence the time delay) and they have been assured that the suit will be dismissed using some justification that will go along the lines of there is no restriction against the rival fuel cell manufacturer, Fuel Cell Energy, from building a manufacturing facility in the state. All I can say is – good luck to Fuel Cell Energy on financing and getting the necessary state government permit approvals.

    I like these comments by the author and attached to a Forbes article titled Who Sued Bloom Energy, written by William Pentland and published 6/21/2012:

    “Bloom did what almost every regulated utility has done for decades and continues to do today – mask the project’s economics in a complex tariff structure that makes it very difficult to understand the cost or the benefits. Ironically, Bloom’s mistake is that it didn’t hide the cost as aggressively as it could have. If anything, Bloom’s insistence on transparency – the surcharge – is the functional equivalent of a bull’s eye…”

    Just sayin…….

  2. Tim says:

    First of all….we should not allow long novels in the comment section. The comment above mine may be great but if you can’t trim down for a blog I’m not interested.

    Second….the more Markell’s real side comes out and his failures start to surface the more I want a wild card like Flowers in. I’m by no means a chip fan. Check my history…but there’s no way I wan the policy director for Jack to be in DE Govt…I can’t afford it. I’ll research this new GOP guy for the gen .. But I’m a yes vote for chip!!!

  3. puck says:

    The comment above mine may be great but if you can’t trim down for a blog I’m not interested.

    it’s four paragraphs. Have you tried Adderall?

  4. Mark Blake says:

    Rob, as much as the nice lady told you the “Transmission Capacity Charge” is the Bloom surcharge portion, she wasn’t being truthful with you. The issue is that Delmarva Power and Bloom, with the blessing of our Governor and Legislature, allowed Delmarva Power to bury the Bloom surcharge in the Electric Delivery Charges section of the bill, where it isn’t a separate line item, as it should be and is with every other Investor Owned Utility (IOU – don’t you love that acronym – and it’s real!) in the USA.

    I spent about 45 minutes after the first month Bloom and Delmarva Power billed customers for the surcharge that was supposed to be $1.30 average. After drilling through all the apportionments and litany of complex calculations, (X% in Customer Charge, another % in Distribution Charge, another based on Standard Offer Service Charge (first 500 kWh, then the % based on total kWh used by the customer, we were able to get within 2 cents of the charge, based on the original surcharge floated by Bloom. I decided that was close enough, but noted that the gyrations were ridiculous and why didn’t Delmarva just institute a simple line item for the surcharge, just like all IOUs’ do when they have an approved Capital or Line Infrastructure surcharge approved by the PUC/PSC? If every Delmarva Power customer actually saw how much this “small surcharge” has actually escalated over the past year, they’d flip out! My last bill included a $5.80 Bloom surcharge, a far cry from the $1.30 touted to the high of $1.40 per average user advertised.

    We consumers need to demand that the PSC mandate that this and any other energy surcharge be clearly defined on our bills so everyone can see the true cost of allowing consumers to become “investors” (without any dividend or ability to “sell” our Bloom “shares” in the future!) Until then, everyone needs to hold every elected official’s feet to the fire.