PSC Establishes Moratorium on ESCO Service to Assistance Program Participants

By: Meghan Boland, Esq.

On July 14, 2016, the New York Public Service Commission approved the Order Regarding the Provision of Service to Low-Income Customers by Energy Service Companies (Case 12-M-0476 et al.) (“the Order”) establishing a moratorium on energy service company (“ESCO”) enrollments and renewals of assistance program participants (“APPs”). Note- the moratorium does not apply to Community Choice Aggregation. Continue reading

New York Solar Goes Virtual: Con Ed, SunPower, and Sunverge Collaborate to Bring Solar to the City

By: Meghan Boland, Esq.

Con Edison, SunPower and Sunverge recently announced a $15 million virtual power plant partner on a pilot program to offer solar power systems with battery storage to more than 300 New York homeowners in Brooklyn and Queens. This Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) project is meant to explore the revenue streams made possible by software-enabled aggregation of energy storage. The aggregation of hundreds of homes with solar power and battery storage will provide the utility with a cost-effective and innovative “virtual power plant,” providing participating homeowners with a backup system in case of an outage while also supplementing the traditional energy delivery model to improve grid resiliency, reliability and sustainability.[1] Although the initial filing was submitted in July, 2015, this announcement marks the green light for the project to launch this summer. Continue reading

New Changes to Pennsylvania Marketing Rules

Important changes have come down the Pennsylvania pipeline for retail electric and natural gas suppliers. On June 30, the Public Utility Commission (PUC) made changes to contract requirements for natural gas suppliers. On July 7, a ruling against Blue Pilot Energy may mean that all suppliers are now required to receive written authorization when enrolling new customers, regardless of whether or not they use independent third-party verifications when telemarketing.

Updates to Natural Gas Disclosure Requirements

On June 30, 2016, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved changes made by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) to disclosure requirements for natural gas suppliers providing service to residential and small business (mass market) customers.

The new regulations require that by July 29, 2016 all natural gas suppliers must:

  1. Develop a ‘Contract Summary’ (using a standard format developed by the PUC), which must then be sent to all new mass market customers in addition to the disclosure statement;
  2. Submit a draft sample of the Contract Summary for each type of product offered (e.g. fixed price, variable, introductory price) to the PUC.

The PUC will then review and comment on the contract summaries. However, it has indicated that this is to be a one-time review, with suppliers expected to incorporate the feedback and apply it to any future changes to their contract summaries.

The approval finalizes the amendments to Title 52 of the Pennsylvania Code, Sections 62.72, 62.75, and 62.81. were adopted by the PUC in April 2016 under Docket No. L-2015-2465942, and approved by the on June 30, 2016.

The Blue Pilot Case

On July 7, two Pennsylvania Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) released an initial decision regarding an ongoing proceeding against Blue Pilot Energy for violating state and commission rules regarding telemarketing. The ALJs found that Blue Pilot had failed to send written contracts to customers obtained through telemarketing, and had failed to obtain signatures on those documents from the customers. The Telemarketer Registration Act (TRA) – which Blue Pilot was accused of violating – makes it illegal to fail to send a written copy of the agreement made via telephone to the customer. It also makes it illegal to fail to obtain the consumer’s signature on the written contract.

Most PA retail suppliers have been operating on the assumption that no written signature is required if they use a third-party verification (TPV) system. However, the ALJ’s in this case have stated the opposite, finding that there is no exception for the written signature for suppliers.

Blue Pilot can still appeal the decision, and it may be overturned or modified. However, the decision still creates precedent for pursuing enforcement action against suppliers who do not receive written signatures from customers enrolled over the phone, and in the interim, it appears that the ALJ’s have decided that suppliers must comply fully with the Telemarketer Registration Act and obtain written signatures from customers enrolled through telesales.

Supreme Court Redefines Jurisdictional Boundaries

In the United States Supreme Court case CPV Maryland, LLC v. PPL EnergyPlus (“CPV Maryland”), LLC; and Hughes v. PPL EnergyPlus, LLC (“Hughes New Jersey”), the Supreme Court made a determination on whether state and/or federal jurisdictions are over-reaching when it comes to certain pricing matters. In these cases, the states attempted to mitigate potential capacity shortages by directing utilities to enter into contracts with wholesale energy suppliers at state regulated rates.  On April 19, the Supreme Court ultimately decided that the states went too far and infringed on federal authority.  Continue reading

Blue Candidate Backs Green Banks

By: Meghan Boland, Esq.

Green Banks and Green Bonds are both institutions that are designed to attract and distribute capital for clean energy projects. The agreement reached at the Paris climate conference (COP21) in December will require trillions of dollars a vast network of institutions around the world, and efficient means for drawing in capital for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.[1]

Going National

On June 27, Secretary Clinton released her “Initiative on Technology and Innovation,” which covered a variety of broad topics, including the establishment of a $25 billion national “Infrastructure Bank.”[2]  Although the June 27th release focused on using the Bank to promote increased internet access, Clinton has previously described the Bank as a source of funding for projects of “regional and national significance” with an emphasis on “projects to modernize our energy, water, broadband, and transportation systems in urban and rural communities.”[3]  Clinton has previously voiced strong support for Green Banks and her desire to model her Infrastructure Bank on existing state banks.[4]

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The Closing of the Last Nuclear Plant in California & What it Means for the Future of American Nuclear

By: Meghan Boland, Esq.

 

Last week Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (“PG&E”) announced that the 31-year-old Diablo Canyon nuclear plant between Los Angeles and San Francisco will shut down by 2025.  As California has already banned the construction of new facilities until the federal government finds a permanent disposal site for radioactive waste, California will soon become a nuclear-free state. The Diablo Canyon facility has been controversial for decades, largely due its proximity to seismic faults and the Pacific Ocean.[1] The announcement of the closure of Diablo Canyon reactor comes at a time when other states are closing nuclear plants or have announced plans to do so, and with America’s most populous and most-environmentally conscious state turning away from nuclear power, many are now wondering what this means for the future of nuclear in America.[2]

With dramatic advances in solar and wind technology and the low prices of gas, nuclear is becoming an increasingly unpopular option. Although PG&E said the Diablo Canyon power will be replaced by renewables,[3] it is likely that many of the other nuclear plants closing around the country will be replaced with coal or natural gas. To be sure, nuclear energy has plenty of problems: reactors can melt down, they are ripe targets for terrorists, they are wildly uneconomical, mining uranium is both dangerous and environmentally destructive, and no one wants the spent fuel stored nearby. However, nuclear power remains a central component of America’s renewable portfolio and should not be cast aside until a viable alternative has been secured.

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Update: Confidentiality Denied. Historic ESCO Pricing Info to be Public

Originally Published February 4, 2016

On June 24, the New York Public Service Commission Secretary issued a final ruling denying confidential treatment to Historic ESCO Price Filings. This ruling denied the appeals of the National Energy Marketers Association (“NEMA”) and the Retail Energy Supply Association (“RESA”), and reaffirms the Commission Records Access Officer’s (“RAO”) February 1, 2016 ruling denying confidential treatment to Historic ESCO Price Filings. Historic pricing data will now be disclosed by the Commission, negatively impacting the competitive positions of ESCO’s in the retail market. Continue reading

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