NY PSC Grants ESCO Coalition’s Extension Request to File a Waiver to Provide Service to Low-Income Customers

On January 13, 2017, New York State Public Service Commission (“NY PSC” or “Commission”) Secretary Burgess granted a request by the Impacted ESCO Coalition (“IEC”) for a fourteen (14) day extension of time to file a Petition for Waiver of the Commission’s December 16, 2016 “Order Adopting a Prohibition on Service to Low-Income Customers by Energy Service Companies” (“December Order”), Case 12-M-0476. The December Order provided ESCOs with thirty (30) days to file a petition for waiver.

The IEC, represented by Feller Law Group, PLLC, made the request on the grounds that an extension would provide ESCOs with more sufficient time to draft and describe products that will meet the criteria set forth in the December Order, especially as the initial thirty (30) day period transpired over the winter holiday season. Feller further submitted that additional time would allow ESCOs to collaborate with industry and consumer groups to gain additional insight on offering a product that will meet the Commission’s requirements and better serve the low-income community.

ESCOs now have until January 30, 2017, to file a Petition for Waiver. For more information or assistance in filing a Petition for Waiver, contact Natara G. Feller, Managing Partner, at (212) 590-0145 or natarafeller@feller.law.

NJ BPU Formally Proposes Supplier Rules Concerning Faster Switching Times for Gas and Electric Customers, New Contract Summary Guidelines, and Customer Acquisition

As anticipated, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) formally proposed rules concerning Third Party Suppliers (“TPS”) amending current regulations. The rules, which were published in the December 5, 2016 New Jersey Register, mark the first significant changes for suppliers since the Polar Vortex, including implementing reduced switching times and improved Government Energy Aggregation Programs (“GEAPs”). The proposed rules will also implement legislation signed into law in December 2015 (A3851/S2018), requiring third party suppliers to provide contract summaries, with specific information and formatting requirements, to customers. Interested parties have until February 3, 2017 to file comments.

Faster Switching Times, Customer Notice, and Billing

Most notably, the proposed rules will result in improved switching times for both electric and gas customers. For electric customers that request to switch suppliers at least 13 days prior to their next scheduled meter read date, the switch will occur on the next meter read date.  For gas customers, such request must be received at least 10 calendar days prior to the next meter read date.

The proposal will also require TPSs transferring customers to another supplier to provide customers with at least 30 days’ notice prior to the switch and to true-up budget billing accounts at least once every 12 months.

Residential and Small Commercial Contract Summaries

In September 2014, the Board ordered all TPSs to provide residential customers with a contract summary upon commencement of service or a renewal. As noted above, in December 2015, legislation was signed into law to require that TPSs shall not provide service without providing a contract summary; the proposed amendments would codify into regulations both the 2014 Order and the 2015 law.  However, the proposed regulations would also require the inclusion of the customer’s name and address at the top of every contract summary, which seems unnecessary. The rule proposal would further eliminate the use of joint electric and gas summaries and require an individual contract summary for each type of service.

 

Emailing Contracts

Under currently rules, TPSs are required provide their customers with a copy of the contract on or before the date it submits the change order to the LDC. The proposed rule now explicitly authorizes TPSs to send contracts to customers via email, which is a positive development.

 

Transfer of a Residential Contract

The proposed rules also include a new section concerning the acquisition of customers.  Note that the rules do not address change in TPS ownership; rather, they apply only where the TPS provider changes.  Under the proposal, where a TPS purchases another TPS, the accounts of another TPS, or the TPS accounts are otherwise transferred to an affiliate company, the acquiring TPS must notify the customer of the transfer in writing at least 30 days prior to the effective date of the customer switch. Such notice must also advise that the new TPS will serve the customer under the same terms and conditions, and that the customer may choose another supplier or return to the local distribution company (“LDC”) prior to the transfer. The regulations also provide that in the event a TPS ceases operations and does not transfer its residential contracts to another TPS, the TPS shall notify its customers, at least 30 days in advance, that it will be switched to the LDC, along with a timetable to choose another supplier before being switched to the LDC.

Government Energy Aggregation Programs

Staff also recommended amendments to GEAP rules, developed with stakeholder input and Staff experience with programs’ current operation.  According to Staff, the amended regulations would reduce unintended customer drops, improve the accuracy of customer information and notification, ensure that customers are provided with sufficient information about GEAPs, ensure consumer protection, and clarify the way new customers are added, among other changes.

 

For more information, contact Grace Strom Power, Esq., Partner in the Feller Law Group Princeton office at 908-510-4130 or at gracepower@feller.law.

 

 

New Jersey BPU To Propose New Supplier Rules Including Faster Switching Times for Gas and Electric Customers

By Grace S. Power, Esq.

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) announced at its monthly meeting on Monday, October 31, 2016, that it would be proposing rules concerning Third Party Suppliers (“TPS”) to amend current regulations. These rules mark the first significant changes for suppliers since the Polar Vortex, including implementing reduced switching times and improved Government Energy Aggregation Programs (GEAPs). The proposed rules will also implement legislation signed into law in December 2015 (A3851/S2018), requiring third party suppliers to provide contract summaries, with specific information and formatting requirements, to customers. The proposal is anticipated to be published in the New Jersey Register in mid-November, at which time interested parties will have a 60-day comment period to respond.

Faster Switching Times and Customer Notice

Most notably, New Jersey switching times will improve for both electric and gas customers. For electric customers that request to switch suppliers at least 13 days prior to their next scheduled meter read date, the switch will occur on the next meter read date.  For gas customers, such request must be received at least 10 calendar days prior to the next meter read date.

The proposal will also require TPSs transferring customers to another supplier to provide customers with at least 30 days’ notice prior to the switch and to true-up budget billing accounts at least once every twelve months.

Residential and Small Commercial Contract Summaries

In September 2014, the Board ordered all TPSs to provide residential customers with a contract summary upon new service or a renewal. In December 2015, legislation was signed into law to require that TPSs shall not provide service without providing a contract summary; the proposed amendments would codify into regulations the 2014 Order and the 2015 law.

Government Energy Aggregation Programs

Staff also recommended amendments to Government Energy Aggregation Program (“GEAP”) rules, developed with stakeholder input and Staff experience with programs’ current operation.  According to Staff, the amended regulations would reduce unintended customer drops, improve the accuracy of customer information and notification, ensure that customers are provided with sufficient information about GEAPs, ensure consumer protection, and clarify the way new customers are added, among other changes.

We will provide you with further information concerning the rule proposal as soon as it is published in the New Jersey Register. For more information, contact Grace Strom Power, Esq., Partner in the Feller Law Group Princeton office at 908-510-4130 or at gracepower@feller.law.

PSC Re-Adopts APP Moratorium Through Emergency Order

By: Meghan Boland, Esq.

In another step aimed at ramping up customer protections, the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) has issued an Order on Rehearing and Providing Clarification (Rehearing Order) as a follow up to the September 15 regular session of the PSC denying rehearing requests of its July order prohibiting ESCO service to Assistance Program Participant (APP) customers, and also established a process for considering the duration of the moratorium, and conditions for lifting the moratorium. Continue reading

Forced Disclosure Demonstrates Low-Income ESCO Customers Pay More

By: Meghan Boland, Esq.

Citing average ESCO cost data made public by the utility under discovery, the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) asserts that the vast majority of low income customers obtaining their supply from an ESCO at National Fuel Gas Distribution (NFGD) in New York paid more than they would have if they had purchased it from the utility.
Specifically, PULP stated that “more than half of the gas volume ESCOs supplied to the Company’s low income customers during the period in question was priced at least 44.6% higher than gas supplied by the Company.”

Continue reading

Is Conscious Decoupling the Future for New Jersey’s Utilities?

 

By: Lena Golze Desmond, Esq.

On July 11, 2016, New Jersey’s Senate Committee and Energy Committee met to address an increasingly important issue: changes in the production and consumption of energy are undermining the continued viability of utilities’ current revenue models. Citing the possibility of a “utility death spiral” if action is not taken, Committee Chairman Smith convened a special stakeholder group to consider the viability of an increasingly popular revenue alternative called “decoupling.”

Under the current model, a utility’s revenue is tied to the amount of energy consumed by its customers. In the last decade; however, energy conservation initiatives combined with high energy prices and consumer-produced energy (such as roof-top solar) have led to a significant reduction in consumption and a corresponding loss in revenue. Reportedly, New Jersey’s utilities saw a loss of 10% of their revenue from 2006 to 2013 alone. Decoupling undoes the consumption-revenue link, instead adjusting rates more frequently and offering incentives to utilities to help customers reduce energy consumption. Over twenty states have already adopted some form of decoupling, as well as two New Jersey utilities – South Jersey Gas and New Jersey Natural Gas, with initial signs pointing to both consumer and utility satisfaction. Continue reading

PA PUC Announces 7% Increase for Non-Solar Tier I Alternative Energy Credits

 

By: Meghan Boland, Esq.

OCTOBER 6 UPDATE: In its Final Order, the the PUC decided it would extend the true-up period of its 7% annual non-solar Tier 1 Alternative Energy Credits cost increase by about six months, from November 30, 2016 to May 1, 2017. However, it declined to grant the request of several energy generation suppliers to shift compliance costs of the increase to electric distribution companies. More information be found on Energy Choice Matters.

A recent Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (Commission) decision has resulted in an approximate 7% increase for the 2016 annual non-solar Tier I Alternative Energy Credits (AECs) obligation after the Commission discovered an error in its calculation. The Commission held initial stakeholder meetings to gather information on any effect this correction could have on electric generation suppliers (EGSs) and electric distribution companies (EDCs). As a result, the true-up period for these obligations was extended from September 1, 2016 to November 30, 2016. Continue reading

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