June 20, 2019
PURA Order Establishes Plan For Customer Refunds In Supplier Amnesty Program
In Docket 18-12-22, the Connecticut Commission issued its Amnesty plan for refunding customer amounts. Recall, that in December of 2018 the Connecticut initiated this docket to consider an "amnesty" program for retail electric suppliers that may have violated the next-cycle rate information requirements. Specifically, the Supplier Amnesty decision includes the following deadlines:
- No later than 4 p.m. on June 19, 2019 suppliers shall indicate their willingness to comply with the plan and submit a revised amnesty plan that complies with this Order.
- No later than 4 p.m. on June 19, 2019 any supplier that has not submitted an amnesty plan shall do so or its participation in the amnesty program will be considered withdrawn.
- Suppliers continuing to participate in this docket shall hold all refunds until PURA has approved an individual supplier’s plan to begin the refund process detailed in the supplier plan.
In its order PURA said, “Suppliers will issue refund checks to all customers (both current and non-current) affected by next cycle rate violations for every violation incurred. Such refunds shall not be limited to any specific number of violations or solely to current customers. A letter should be included with the refund check informing the customer of the nature of the refund and instructing the customer to cash the check promptly.”
Save the Date - IPA Workshop Agendas Announced
The Illinois Power Agency (“IPA”) has released the agendas for the upcoming workshops on the update of the Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan. The agendas can be found here.
The workshops will be held on June 20 (Overview of the RPS and the Long-Term Plan; RPS Budgets; Utility Scale Procurements; Illinois Solar for All) and June 26 (Adjustable Block Program structure; REC Pricing Model; Distributed Generation; Community Solar, Consumer Protections) in Chicago. A call-in option is also available. Please see the agendas for more information.
Utilities To Submit Supplier Load Shaping Pilot Program
On June 12, 2019, after reviewing comments received by parties in Docket PC44 Rate Design Retail Supplier Load Shaping Pilot the Commission finalized the Statement of Work for the RFP and directs BGE and DPL to each issue an RFP within 30 days. The RFP Statement of Work can be downloaded here (pdf).
The Maryland PSC has adopted a final RFP for retail electric suppliers to propose load shaping pilot programs and directed Baltimore Gas and Electric, Pepco, and Delmarva Power to each issue an RFP
In the Order in Docket PC44, the Commission directs the utilities to issue RFPs to licensed retail electric suppliers to submit residential load shaping pilot proposals that demonstrate an ability to shape customer load profiles through load shifting, peak shaving, and energy efficiency. Per the Order, the Commission will then direct each utility to execute contracts for up to two pilots per service territory. For full details of the load shaping pilot program
Commission Seeks Comments on Bill Payment Options
On June 7, 2019, in D.P.U. 19-71 the Massachusetts Commission on its own motion initiated a proceeding into Customer Bill Payment Alternatives for Gas and Electric Distribution Companies.
This investigation will seek to (1) examine the bill payment options including the evaluation of the appropriateness of various proposed bill payment options and devise criteria, timelines, and proposals by which electric and gas distribution companies may provide optimal bill payment alternatives to customers. The Department invites all interested persons to present initial comments for implementation of bill payment options no later than 5:00 p.m. on July 26, 2019 and reply comments by September 20, 2019.
Commission Creates Competitive NOI Working Groups
On June 6, 2019 the Massachusetts Commission held a technical session to discuss the initiatives identified in the D.P.U 19-07 Competitive Supply Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”). Slides from technical session can be found here.
During this technical session, staff identified two separate working groups will be formed to address the initiatives. The "Customer Awareness/Protection" working group will address the following initiatives:
- Automatic renewal
- Customer complaint data
- Marketing standards of conduct
- Supplier enrollment reports and
- EnergySwitch.MA awareness.
The second working group will address improvements to the Energy Switch website, including, but not limited to, the display of municipal aggregation products.
Save the Date – NEMA Fall Conference Announced
The National Energy Marketers Association announced dates for its Fall Executive Committee Meeting, to be held October 16-18, 2019, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Additional details when available will be posted on NEM's event page when available.
NEM Files Motion For Reargument With Court of Appeals
On June 16, 2019, NEM filed a Motion for Reargument of the Court of Appeals May 9th ruling in NEM v. NYPSC finding that the NYPSC does have authority to impose a price cap on ESCO.
NEM's Motion argues that "[e]nabling the PSC to impose restrictions through “conditioned access” to utility infrastructure that it could not impose through direct statutory authorization would allow the PSC to bypass the very limits the Legislature imposed on it by expanding its authority over “gas and electric companies” (public utilities over which the Legislature gave the PSC the power to set rates) to regulate ESCOs – over which the Legislature specifically declined to permit the PSC to decide rates. The PSC repeatedly recognized its lack of jurisdiction over rates charged by non-utilities."
In addition NEM argued that “[c]reating a back-door power of “conditioned access” that has the effect of permitting the PSC to regulate beyond the bounds that the Legislature has specifically delimited would conflict with this Court’s consistent jurisprudence" on statutory interpretation.
More ESCO Licenses At Risk
On June 13, 2019 the New York State Public Service Commission (Commission) issued orders that could result in five (5) ESCOs being banned from operating in the state. First, in Docket 16-M-0618, the Commission directed Atlantic Power & Gas, LLC to explain why the Commission should not ban the ESCO from operating in New York or take other remedial action. In an earlier decision issued on March 13, 2017, the Commission ordered Atlantic Power to cease marketing and enrolling customers. Then on March 4, 2019, the Commission staff identified apparent violations including re-enrolling customers who requested to be returned to their utility. Atlantic Power has 30 days to counter the Department’s findings.
On the same day, the Commission also directed that Clear Choice Energy LLC, Amerigreen Energy, LLC, Bluesource Energy LLC and Got Gas?, LLC, explain why the companies should not be barred from operating in New York for failing to file their annual compliance filings. These companies currently do not have any customers. (See Dockets: 19-G-0279, 19-M-0280, 19-M-0281, 19-M-0367)
Updated Consumer Vulnerability Strategy
On June 13, 2019 Ofgem published its updated Consumer Vulnerability Strategy setting out its priorities to help protect gas and electricity consumers in vulnerable situations until 2025.
The U.K. energy regulator Ofgem released a draft Consumer Vulnerability Strategy 2025. Here is the link to the report: Draft Consumer Vulnerability Strategy 2025. The consultation will be open for eight weeks and close 8 August 2019.
Based on the engagement with stakeholders so far, we have identified five themes where improvements can be made for consumers in vulnerable situations:
- Improving identification of vulnerability and smart use of data.
- Driving a step change in customer service.
- Supporting those struggling with their bills.
- Encouraging positive innovation.
- Ofgem working across boundaries (eg with Government departments and other regulators).
Proposed Customer Assistance Program (CAP)
On June 15, 2019 the Pennsylvania Commission published the proposed Customer Assistance Program (CAP) (Docket # M-2018-3006578) in the Pennsylvania Bulletin on Saturday, June 15 that is available here.
- This publication triggers the start of the comment periods:
- Interested parties shall have 45 days from the date of publication of this proposed policy statement to file written comments.
Written replies to comments are due within 60 days of the date of publication.
Natural Gas Choice 20th Anniversary
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Natural Gas Choice and Competition Act. PUC Chairman reported that more than 435,000 customers currently get their natural gas supply from competitive natural gas suppliers, accounting for nearly half of Pennsylvania’s total load of natural gas usage.
The Chairman also applauded the PAGasSwitch site, which was created in 2016) saw an increase of approximately 150% in both total and unique visitors, and a nearly 350% increase in website 'sign up' clicks for shoppers looking to enroll with suppliers.
$6,000 Settlement Reached For Mistaken Enrollment During EDI Testing
On June 13, 2019 The Pennsylvania PUC approved a previously approved $6,000 settlement with Astral Energy regarding the supplier’s customer-enrollment testing practices. During the testing electronic data-interchange software with the utility, the supplier’s third-party vendor mistakenly submitted seven ‘test’ customer account numbers provided by the utility, that turned out to be actual ‘live’ customer accounts. These “test accounts” were inadvertently enrolled by the supplier. Apparently, the supplier had no reason to believe that the “test accounts” provided by the utility were actual “live” accounts
As part of the settlement, the company agreed to designate an individual as the PUC point of contact responsible for electronic data interchange testing and that the company agreed to establish a compliant process to monitor future enrollments.
$1.8 Million EGS Civil Penalty Affirmed
On June 5, 2019 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirms the $1.8 million civil penalty against HIKO Energy that was first approved by the Pennsylvania Commission and affirmed by the lower Commonwealth Court. The high court rejected HIKO Energy LLC’s claims that the penalty was excessive to other supplier fines and that it was unfairly punished by the Public Utility Commission for contesting the charges lodged against it rather than settling the case.
In addition, the majority concluded HIKO had waived its ability to bring that constitutional challenge to the Supreme Court because it failed to make that argument when it initially challenged the fine before the PUC.
New Law Requires Utilities To Propose Competitive Energy Supply Programs
In response to the passage of H.3659 the South Carolina PSC initiated proceedings to address requirements in the recently adopted legislation, that among other things, requires the utilities to propose competitive renewable energy supply programs aimed at large customers with a new or existing contract demand greater than or equal to one megawatt at a single-metered location or aggregated across multiple-metered locations.
As required under the new law, the Commission directed the utilities to file their proposals by September 13, 2019 and any utility seeking a determination that an existing program meets the statutory conditions must notify the PSC within 45 days. (See Dockets 2019-207-E, 2019-208-E, 2019-209-E).
Electric Brokers Must Be Registered With the Texas Commission
The Texas Governor has signed SB 1497 requires all electricity brokers to be registered with the Texas Public Utility Commission. This new law is effective September 1, 2019. The new bill requires the Texas Commission adopt rules outlining the application process.
REPs May Elect To Receive Low-income Customer List On Annual Basis
In Project 48337 the Public Utility Commission of Texas Amends 16 TAC 25.45 whereby retail electric provider may request customer identification service from the low-income list administrator (LILA). The adopted rule amendment will be published in the Texas Register on June 28, 2019 and is effective July 4, 2019. View the Order Here (PDF).
The Amendments, among other things, require:
- No later than May 1 of each year, staff must open a project so that a REP may request the low-income customer identification service for the upcoming fiscal year beginning September 1. Staff shall include the total annual cost of the service for the respective time period.
- No later than July 31 of each year, a REP must file its request for the low-income customer identification service.
- No later than August 31 of each year, if the commission has received a request from one or more REPs under paragraph (2) above, the commission will enter an order listing the name of each REP that filed a request and establishing the amount that each REP will pay.
- Note that the total cost of the low-income customer identification service will be allocated equally among the REPs that have filed a request.
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