October 7, 2019
Commissioner Seeks More Time and Additional Input From Stakeholders
In Docket RE-00000A-18-0405 Arizona Commissioner Boyd Dunn suggests extension in retail choice comment deadline while issuing his own list of questions for stakeholder input. For details, see RE-00000A-18-0405. With the additional list of questions, he said
"As to the process moving forward, Staff offered to compile the questions for stakeholder response. I am not sure this is necessary, but since it was agreed to during the Staff Open Meeting, I am not opposed to proceeding with this approach. I am also concerned that the October 18, 2019 deadline to respond is a bit too aggressive. Given the complexity of our questions, I propose that stakeholders and interested parties file their responses by October 31, 2019 and file any replies by November 30, 2019. This will allow us to consider the stakeholder positions along with Staff's report on other jurisdictions in December. It is my expectation that the Commission will decide our next steps at that time," Dunn wrote
California Governor Signs SB 208, the Consumer Call Protection Act of 2019
California Governor Gavin Newsom has signed SB 208, the Consumer Call Protection Act of 2019, to, among other things, “identify those engaging in deceptive robocalls and protect Californians, especially vulnerable populations, from impostors using telecommunications to defraud consumers.”
The new law, which adds Section 2893.5 to the Public Utilities Code, would require each telecommunications service provider, on or before January 1, 2021, to implement STIR/SHAKEN protocols “or alternative technology that provides comparable or superior capability to verify and authenticate caller identification for calls carried over an internet protocol network.” A “good faith effort” to comply with this requirement will be a defense to a claim for violating Section 2893.5 in this regard.
Further, pursuant to authority granted to the states in 47 U.S.C. §227 (i.e., the Telephone Consumer Protection Act), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) and the Attorney General (AG) of the state are authorized to “take all appropriate actions to enforce that section and any regulation promulgated under that section.” In addition, the law provides that the CPUC may, at the request of the AG, work with the AG for the purposes of enforcing the TCPA provisions that specifically provide state authority (i.e., 47 U.S.C. §227(e), (g)).
Finally, the new law specifically provides that it does not (a) require a telecommunications service provider to employ call blocking, (b) limit any right otherwise permitted by law and (c) otherwise expand the power of the CPUC.
Reminder: RPS Compliance Filing
Although Public Act 17-186 amended Connecticut General Statute 16-245a to eliminate Q5 (the extra CT Quarter) effective July 2017, PURA has not yet taken the steps to amend its regulations or current practices to incorporate the change from PA 17-186. Therefore, the 2018 RPS compliance filing is still due on October 15, 2019, and the Final Settlement Load will be used to determine its obligations. Companies are allowed to use Q1 2019 RECs for 2018 RPS compliance. PURA will issue a notice to all load serving entities, if and when any changes are made to its current practices, in order to allow adequate time for all to comply.
PURA Issues Proposed Refund Plan Under Supplier Amnesty Program
In Docket 18-12-22 Docket 18-12-22 . PURA issued a draft order to modify how retail electric suppliers are to refund customers amounts under the previously issued amnesty plans filed by various suppliers. In the draft order the Commission proposes that suppliers issue refunds to customers via utility consolidated billing bill credits. Note that the proposed revised process would not apply to any supplier whose amnesty plan was approved prior to the decision or that otherwise may have already issued refunds to customers.
The draft order states, "In this Decision the Authority modifies the manner in which customer refunds will be distributed. Suppliers will not provide refunds directly to residential customers. Instead, upon approval of an amnesty plan, the supplier will direct all refund monies to the electric distribution companies (EDC), who will apply individual refunds as a bill credit to the affected customer’s EDC account. This will reduce arrearages and, based on the amount of the refund(s), may result in a credit balance for customers. For any account that has been written off, the EDC shall apply the refund to their General Service Charge reserve account for uncollectable funds. Suppliers will still be required to notify affected customers."
"Suppliers will be required to issue the PURA-approved letter and insert to all customers receiving a bill credit under their approved amnesty plan. The letter must provide the amount that will be credited to the utility account and will explain the process to be followed if the customer does not have a current utility account. Letters must be mailed by first class U.S. Mail and sent approximately one month before the EDC billing cycle in which accounts will be credited to alert each customer regarding this matter. Suppliers must provide an on-the-envelope message that reads: 'Important Information About Your Utility Refund.' Suppliers must work with the EDCs to coordinate the timing of this activity," the draft states
President Trump Announces FERC Nominee
On September 30th the White House announced President Trump’s intent to nominate James P. Danly of Tennessee, to be a Member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, for the remainder of a five-year term expiring June 30, 2023.
James Danly is General Counsel of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Before joining the Commission, he was a member of the energy regulation and litigation group at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom LLP. Danly earned his J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School and B.A. from Yale University.
Court Upholds Expansion of Solar Program Throughout Illinois
The Illinois Supreme Court denied Commonwealth Edison’s petition for leave to appeal the Appellate Court’s May 2019 decision (pdf), thereby ending the utility’s legal challenge to the expansion of solar programs throughout Illinois, including electric utilities operated by municipalities, rural electric cooperatives and smaller local utilities.
On April 3, 2018, the Illinois Commerce Commission (Commission) approved the plan. The Commission concluded that the generation facilities eligible for the programs are statutorily defined to include those within the service areas of the Local Utilities. On appeal, ComEd argued that the legislature intended to exclude the generation facilities operating in the service areas of the Local Utilities from participating in the programs.
The Court acknowledged that terms like “electric utility” and “utility” … “are not deployed with precision, rendering the statutory scheme ambiguous. However, deferring to the Commission’s expertise, we agree with the Commission’s interpretation in favor of the stated legislative intent of promoting the programs. We affirm.”
Illinois Approves ComEd’s TOU Pilot Rate
On October 2, 2019 in Docket 18-1824 the ICC approved Commonwealth Edison's proposed Rate RTOUPP – Residential Time of Use Pricing Pilot (TOU Pilot) -- an electric supply rate Time of Use option for non-shopping customers. The Final Order can be downloaded (pdf) here.
The Commission’s final order did not adopt the ALJ’s proposed bill protection for low-income customers low-income customers electing to participate guaranteeing that such low-income customers pay no more under Rate RTOUPP than they would have paid under the standard fixed price default service.
The Commission concludes that, “educational and marketing requirements coupled with the fact that Rate RTOUPP is voluntary are sufficient protections for customers. Moreover, as ComEd explained, one of the purposes of Rate RTOUPP is to gauge customers’ responsiveness to TOU pricing; the effectiveness of Rate RTOUPP in achieving that goal may be diminished if customers are almost entirely insulated from the effects of TOU pricing.”
Net Metering Comment Period Deadline Extended
On September 10th, the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order in 2019-00256 (pdf) Order. extending the time for comments on the implementation of a recent law that will change the way in which Kentucky electric utility customers receive credit for electricity they generate from solar panels and other renewable sources. Written comments in the proceeding now are due by October 15, 25 days later than the original deadline.
As background the Kentucky General Assembly earlier this year passed and Gov. Matthew Bevin signed into law a bill that changes the way utilities will credit retail customers who generate electricity from renewable sources, primarily solar panels.
Under the new law, net metered customers will receive dollar credits at a compensation rate set by the PSC in rate proceedings for each utility, with the compensation amount for each billing period subtracted from the total bill for that period. The new law states that an electric utility is “entitled to implement rates to recover from its eligible (net metering customers) all costs necessary to serve” those customers, independent of the rate structure for all other customers.
The original net metering statute provided credits at the full retail rate, using a bi-directional meter that reflected whether a customer was producing more or less electricity than was being used. The customer bill reflected the net usage.
The new law takes effect on January 1, 2020. After that date, utilities may file applications with the PSC to implement new net metering rates. The new rates will take effect only after receiving
Rulemaking Proceeding to Amend the Renewable Portfolio Requirement Rule
On August 9th, in Docket 2019-00177, the Maine Commission initiated a rulemaking proceeding to amend the renewable portfolio requirement rule (Chapter 311) in order to implement recently enacted legislation. Notice of Rulemaking (pdf download). As background, on June 26, 2019, the Governor signed L.D. 1494, An Act To Reform Maine’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (Act).3 The Act that became effective September 19, 2019.
In its request for comments, among other things, the rulemaking sought comments on revisions to the Alternative Compliance Mechanism. Maine’s statute allows competitive electricity providers to satisfy the Class I and Class IA portfolio requirements through an alternative compliance mechanism (ACM), and requires the Commission to set the alternative compliance rate by January 31st of each year and to deposit all collected funds into the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resource Fund established pursuant to 35-A M.R.S. § 10121(2). The Act specifies that the ACP must not be any higher than $50.00 per megawatt-hour.
In particular, Section 3(D) of the proposed rule contains the provisions governing the ACM. The provision contains the statutory maximum amount of $50.00 per megawatt-hour. This section also updates the language regarding the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Resource Fund to reflect statutory changes made since the rule was last amended. The Commission notes that Maine Class 1 eligible renewable energy credits are currently trading at levels that are well below $50.00 per megawatt-hour. Given this, the Commission requests comment on whether the ACP should be initially set at a level that is closer to, but still above, current market prices, and then escalated in subsequent years until the cap is reached.
Suppliers Voice Concerns With "Interactive Discussion" TPV Process
In D.P.U. 19-07 the Department requested that the supplier group submit their comments no later than September 20, 2019. Filled comments may be viewed here: 19-07 Comments.
Suppliers reiterated a host of concerns related to DPU's retail electric marketing investigation. Among other things, a number of parties raised concerns with a new "interactive discussion" TPV process. The DPU's stated intent around this requirement was that it sought “to expand the role of TPV to include confirmation that competitive suppliers have complied with the marketing standards of conduct discussed [in the order] – absent such confirmation, a competitive supplier would not be permitted to enroll the customer."
Although implementation of such a process has been designated a "Tier II" issue in the proceeding, suppliers noted that the new interactive discussion TPV process has been implicated in Tier I discussions because it would involve changes to marketing scripts tied to the TPV process.
In particular a working group of suppliers said that the interactive TPV proposal, would, "fundamentally change TPVs from the current structure in which the Company asks questioners a series of questions that must be answered 'yes' or the TPV call will immediately fail, to an interactive discussion in which the agent will ask the customer to give oral answers to questions such as what is the agreed-upon fixed price, what are the termination fee provisions, what are the automatic renewal provisions, etc."
Even the DPU’s alternative marketing script proposal would require inclusion of five points the supplier ‘would need to reiterate prior to beginning the TPV (telemarketing or door-to-door) process. These five points include the following:
- In a moment, you will be transferred to [Supplier Name's] verification service provider. Before I do so, I would like to review with you the product information that we have discussed.
- The price you will pay will be fixed at xx cents per kilowatt-hour for a term of xx months.
- Should you cancel the agreement prior to the end date, you will be charged a fee of $ xx [or] $ xx per month remaining on the agreement.
- This agreement will automatically renew at the end of the term unless you inform us otherwise. We will contact you no later than 30 days before that time to discuss your supply options with you.
- If renewable product: The product you have purchased exceeds the state's minimum requirements for renewable energy
"The suppliers do not support the five boxes proposed in the Department’s alternative proposal that introduce and then re-specify each of the price, termination fee, automatic renewal and renewable product provisions which were discussed during the sales call. Obtaining customer confirmation of each of these elements is a task that is addressed during the TPV call that will immediately follow, and the proposed language will be unnecessarily duplicative of each of these elements," the suppliers said.
NYPSC Issues Order with Minor Clarifications to Its Uniform Business Practices (UBP)
On September 23rd, the NYPSC issued its Order with minor clarifications to its Uniform Business Practices (UBP). In Case 98 M-1343 In the Matter of Retail Access Business Rules.
The two most notable changes to the UBP include the following:
- The UBP will now require ESCO marketers to identify themselves by identification badges with a first name and an individualized identification number, rather than a badge with first and last name.
- The Commission adopted UBP modifications that prohibit ESCOs from charging a customer a fee for termination or early cancellation because that customer has died during the pendency of his or her ESCO contract.
Numerous other proposals and clarifications were initially proposed by the Commission but were not approved by this Order. It is anticipated that the additional proposed changes will either be reissued for further comment or simply republished to comply with SAPA.
The effective date is 30 days from the dateof the Commission's September 23rd Order.
Brokers Oppose Disclosure of Supplier Compensation
In Project 49794, many parties have filed comments in response to Staff’s proposed Strawman Texas Broker Rulemaking. Not surprisingly, most suppliers oppose staff’s proposal that would require Texas electric brokers to disclose to customers the amount of their compensation paid by the retail electric providers, Review Staff's Strawman Proposal (pdf). and parties comments in Project 49794 Comments.
OFGEM To Revoke 4 Supplier Licenses For Nonpayment of Renewable Obligations
On October 1st, Ofgem ordered four retail energy suppliers to pay £14.7 million in Renewables Obligations by 31 October 2019.
"Four suppliers missed the original deadline of 1 September 2019 and have not provided Ofgem with adequate assurances that they will pay by the late payment deadline," Ofgem said.
"If suppliers fail to pay by 31 October, Ofgem could start the process to revoke their license to supply energy," Ofgem said.
The suppliers are:
- Delta Gas and Power Ltd – outstanding amount: £91,937
- Gnergy Ltd – outstanding amount: £637,876
- Robin Hood Energy Ltd – outstanding amount: £9,435,925
- Toto Energy Ltd – outstanding amount: £4,555,880
Under the governments’ Renewables Obligation schemes, suppliers have to demonstrate they have sourced enough electricity from renewable sources to meet their obligation by presenting Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) to Ofgem by 1 September.
If suppliers do not have enough ROCs to meet their obligation, they must make up the shortfall by paying into a buy-out fund administered by Ofgem by 31 August.
The four suppliers have failed to pay into the buy-out fund or present the required number of ROCs by the 31 August and 1 September 2019 deadlines. They have until 31 October 2019 late payment deadline to make the outstanding payments, plus interest.
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