The Division of the Public Advocate (DPA) was established in 1978 after public outcry over steadily and sharply increasing electricity rates. In establishing the DPA,the General Assembly charged the Public Advocate with representing consumer interests whenever PSC-regulated utility companies in Delaware seek changes in the delivery of services or changes in rates for electric distribution, natural gas supply, water or wastewater services, or local exchange telephone services. Over the years, the efforts of the DPA have helped to save utility consumers millions of dollars in avoided rate increases, as well as bring important protections to utility customers.
In 2013, the General Assembly amended 29 Del. C., Section 8716, clarify its intent that the DPA is to advocate primarily on behalf of residential and small commercial customers, and that the DPA not not advocate on behalf of large commercial and industrial consumers where the Public Advocate determines that these entities have the means to advocate on their own behalf. The 2013 amendments also eliminated the need for the Attorney General to intervene in cases before the PSC and other regulatory bodies (as occurred in 2011 and 2013) by permitting the Governor to appoint an Acting Public Advocate to perform the duties of the Public Advocate when the office becomes vacant, and until a successor is appointed and confirmed. Beginning with the 149th General Assembly, a four year term limit will be imposed on the Public Advocate, although the Public Advocate will continue to serve at the pleasure of the Governor and may therefore be removed from office at any time for any reason. Finally, the advisory role of the Public Advocate has been expanded to permit the Public Advocate, when requested, to provide guidance to the Governor, the General Assembly or the Secretary of State on matters of energy policy and utility consumers, or other matters. The Public Advocate will file an annual report Governor and General Assembly detailing the activities of the DPA, as well as any other report that the Governor or General Assembly may request.
The fundamental mission of the DPA is to advocate the lowest reasonable rates for consumers, consistent with the maintenance of adequate utility service and consistent with an equitable distribution of rates among all classes of consumers. Please contact the DPA to learn more about who we are and the important work we do representing the interests of utility consumers.
The DPA also appears in matters before federal regulatory agencies, such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), representing the interests of utility consumers.
Recognizing the unique role of the DPA, the General Assembly has statutorily appointed the Public Advocate, or his/her designee, to a number of important working groups, councils, and/or committees:
- Energy Efficiency Resource Standards Work Group (26 Del. C., §1502(c)(1))
- Energy Utility Restructuring Customer Education Work Group (26 Del. C., §1014(c))
- Governor's Energy Advisory Council (29 Del. C., §8055(d))
- Renewable Energy Taskforce (26 Del. C., §360)
- Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) Oversight Board (29 Del. C., §8059(e))
- Water Supply Coordinating Council (26 Del. C., §1305)