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May 30, 2019

Arizona

Arizona Revised Draft Rules To Be Discussed At July Workshop

At a recent workshop last week to examine revisions to certain other energy rules, Commission Staff announced that it intended to file revised draft rules to include retail electric competition on June 29th. Staff tentatively announced a workshop on energy rules, including retail electric competition, will be held July 30th, pending Commissioner availability on that date.

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Connecticut

Connecticut Proposed Decision That Telemarketing Message Violates Statute

PURA issued a proposed decision in Docket 10-06-18RE02 that a pre-recorded telemarketing message used by an agent of Spark Energy, LLC violated certain statutes, and imposes proposed civil penalty in the amount of $750,000 against Spark Energy.

The proposed decision would also provide that, "Spark is also directed to maintain audio recordings of all telemarketing calls made by it or on its behalf by any third party and submit to periodic auditing of marketing by the Authority for a period of one year from the date of this Decision. If Spark does not adhere to this monitoring requirement or if the Authority finds further violations, the Authority will subject Spark to further penalties and/or revoke its license." 

The proposed decision, among other things, states, "The above pre-recorded message implies it was made on behalf of Eversource. In fact, the message never mentions Spark; Eversource is the only entity to which it refers."  The proposed decision would conclude that, "The pre-recorded message violates this statute. First, the message never identifies that it is from Spark as required by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-245o(h)(2)(A)(i). Second, not only does the message never indicate that it is not from an electric distribution company (EDC), on the contrary, it is worded to appear as if it is from an EDC, which violates Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-245o(h)(2)(A)(ii). Third, the message violates Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-245o(h)(2)(A)(iii); as the message appears to emanate from Eversource, it does not explain the purpose of the solicitation, which was to have customers enroll in a supply contract with Spark."

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Illinois

ICC Proposed First Notice Retail Natural Gas Rules

On May 17th, the Illinois Commerce Commission first notice order 17-0857 concerning sales and marketing rules for the retail natural gas market was released.   These proposed rules would generally apply to residential and small commercial customers unless otherwise stated. The broad rules outline proposed marketing rules for retail natural gas suppliers and their agents. These rules also include requirements governing price to compare, supplier agent training and complaint handling, as well as renewal notice timing. Stay tuned.  

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Maryland

Maryland Public Service Commission Authorizes Supplier Consolidated Billing

On May 7, 2019 the Commission issued an Order in MD Case No. 9461 Order. authorizing supplier consolidated billing (SCB) for retail electric and natural gas customers in Maryland. The Commission found that "SCB represents the next logical step for Maryland to fully implement the Electric Choice Act and the Natural Gas Act. A direct relationship between retail suppliers and their customers resulting from direct billing could support the growth of retail competition in Maryland."  

Among other things, the Commission ordered the SCB Workgroup, shall be established and led by Commission Staff to address supplier consolidated billing implementation issues, consistent with the guidance in this Order. The working group has 60 days from the date of this Order to file a timeline for implementing supplier consolidated billing, including a procedural schedule with deliverables for Commission review;” 

Among other topics the Working Group is to address the following topics: 

  • Qualifications for supplier consolidated billing providers;  
  • Purchase of receivables and bad debt;
  • Consumer protection concerns; 
  • Customer education; and
  • Cost recovery;  

Other issues addressed also include the following:

Termination for Nonpayment 
Note that without addressing the legality of the issue, the Commission declined to allow suppliers to terminate service for nonpayment. "At least at this time, while the SCB Workgroup addresses the implementation details of how to achieve SCB, the Commission finds it is not appropriate to extend termination authority to suppliers. However, in response to the concerns raised by the suppliers, including management of bad debt, the Commission will require that utilities purchase the outstanding distribution charges of a delinquent customer account upon the customer’s return to standard offer service, as further discussed below. For other charges, the SCB provider should resort to the traditional remedies of other non-regulated businesses, including reporting to credit agencies, seeking monetary judgments in court, and pursuing collection activities." 
 
Purchase of Receivables 
With respect to POR, the Commission decided that "suppliers should provide purchase of receivables to the utility on substantially the same terms as provided under UCB." However, the Commission recognized that "suppliers that offer SCB need some ability to protect themselves from the risk of nonpayment of distribution-related debt. When a supplier is no longer serving a customer, after reasonable efforts to collect, the supplier should not be required to hold any debt attributable to the customer’s distribution charges paid under POR. Where a supplier can demonstrate the amount of unpaid distribution charges, the utility should repurchase those charges. The discount rate when a utility re-purchases distribution-related debt should be at a zero discount rate unless the SCB Workgroup can provide alternative calculations which are supported by a compelling analysis. . . . The supplier would retain any debt related to its own supply charges and any non-utility costs, and the supplier can use any legal collection methods available."

Cost Recovery 
The Commission found that it "does not have sufficient information to determine either the costs or the appropriate cost recovery mechanism for SCB implementation at this time" and charged the SCB Workgroup with developing and submitting detailed cost estimates and cost recovery proposals.

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New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Signs Supplier Renewal Licensing Reform

On May 10, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed retail supplier licensing reform legislation, S-604/A-4010 and S-605/A-4012. These bills are now P.L. 2019, Chapter 100 (electric licenses) and P.L. 2019, Chapter 101 (gas licenses).   These new laws simplify the retail supplier license renewal process. Pursuant to the new gas and electric licensing laws a supplier’s license will not expire as long as the supplier files the annual update, pays the filing fee and submits the update prior to the expiration of the current license.     

The new license renewal application process will include an annual update on a form that must be developed by the Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”). The BPU has 60 days to implement the new licensing process, establish the filing fee and create the new forms to be used. As we learned more from the BPU licensing staff we will keep you informed of developments. Stay tuned for more updates.

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New York

New York Appeals Court Affirms NYPSC Authority Over ESCO Rates

The New York Court of Appeals issued its decision in NEM v. NYPSC finding that the NYPSC does have authority to impose a price cap on ESCO rates as a condition of eligibility.

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South Carolina

South Carolina Governor Signs Renewable Energy Competitive Supply Bill

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has signed H. 3659. which requires development of a program which is to allow large customers to direct their utility to purchase renewable energy from a competitive provider on the customer's behalf. While the bill directs the creation of a renewable energy competitive supply program from large customers, details of the program are left to the PSC to implement.

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