RSA Tower – The Premises Rule

Big industrial giants in large cities usually have operations on several adjacent city blocks and consume much electrical power.  To insure that their electric utility rate is kept reasonably high despite the huge consumption, Alabama Power persuaded the Public Service Commission to issue a “Premises Rule”.  The rule stated that each city block, even adjacent blocks operated by the same owner, constituted separate premises and thus had to have a separate electric service and meter.  It was, and is, an important rate setting advantage to the power company.alabama power

Then along came the RSA Tower and PH&J’s remote chiller concept.  We proposed an all-electric building, over which Alabama Power Company was jubilant, but when we explained that the chiller plant and main electric service were to be located on the other side of a public street, the power company faces turned dark.  As soon as our scheme was set, we applied for an engineering service.  “You must have two electric services and two meters,” intoned the power company engineers.  “Like hell we will!” I wailed.  “The high rate for split service will destroy the economy of an all-electric approach.”  “Not our fault,” rejoined the engineers, “It’s the Premises Rule of the Public Service Commission.”  Like yours truly was too dumb to know whose rule it really was.

After much posturing by both sides, and after conferring with David Bronner, I sent word to the power company that the Public Service Commission was soon to be a tenant in the RSA Union and that we and the RSA had access to all three PSC Commissioners.  “What’s more,” I continued, “the Retirement System will use its considerable lobbying force to insure that the Premises Rule is done away with statewide.”

I let that declaration and threat simmer for a week or so, and as expected, the Alabama Power Company engineers came back and announced that they had discovered a loophole in the Premises Rule.  The exception exactly fit our situation, they explained, and the Tower was allowed to have a single meter which was not even on the same block.  Thus we avoided a fight to the death with Alabama Power Company.  As the wags in the legislature are fond of saying “You just have to ‘splain’ it the right way.”

-Charles Humphries (“Peril and Intrigue Within Architecture”)

This is one of many RSA Tower stories. The rest can be found here.

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