ZEC Legislation Comes to New Jersey

By Grace S. Power, Esq. &
Lena Golze Desmond, Esq.

These days, it seems, a zero can also be a hero. A zero-carbon emissions facility, that is, and a nuclear power plant, to be exact. Whether that will still be true at the end of 2017, however, is uncertain.

On February 28, 2017, Senator Bob Smith, Chairman of New Jersey’s Senate Energy and Environment Committee, introduced a wide-ranging package of legislation, which included a directive to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to study the value of instituting a “Zero Emissions Credit” (“ZEC”) system in the state. The system is based on a program created by the New York Public Service Commission (“PSC”) in response to the announcement of the closure of New York’s financially ailing upstate nuclear power plants that will require all load serving entities, whether utilities or third-party energy suppliers, to purchase a certain amount of ZECs, or pay a fine, beginning in April 2017. The amount of ZECs each individual entity must purchase is based on a) the total number of ZECs (estimated at 27,618,000MWh) and b) its proportional use as compared to the statement load. Regulators and power producers in other states have taken note of New York’s program, with similar bills being introduced in several other states.

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NYPSC Extends Deadlines on Low Income Customer Service Prohibition Order

On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, the New York Public Service Commission (“Commission”) issued a Notice delaying implementation of the Commission’s December 16 Order[1] prohibiting energy service companies (“ESCOs”) from serving low-income customers by two months, until May 26, 2017.

In granting the extension, the Commission relied, in part, on the Petition for Rehearing and Clarification of the Impacted ESCO Coalition (“Petition”) which pointed out that low-income customers should be provided with the option to select an ESCO granted waiver over the default utility service.  The implementation plan proposed by the Commission does not include “a role for ESCOs that are granted waiver” or provide clarity to such ESCOs regarding: “(i) enrolling new customers; (ii) keeping current customers, or (iii) transitioning newly acquired customers.”[2]

The Commission also noted that this matter was currently pending before the Albany County Supreme Court and that “[i]n order to avoid the customer confusion that may arise in implementing the prohibition that may be subject to change pending the outcome of that litigation, it is appropriate to delay the implementation of the Prohibition Order until a judgment can be had.”[3]

In reaction to the Commission’s extension, Natara Feller was quoted in Energy Choice Matters as stating, “We are encouraged by the Commission’s decision as the extension provides additional time for ESCOs, industry groups, and the Commission to collaborate on the best solutions for challenges to the retail market. This is an important step towards ensuring the preservation of customer choice. All customers, including those that are low-income, deserve the option to choose an ESCO rather than being summarily returned to default utility service.”

ESCOs have until January 30, 2017 to petition for waiver. For more information, contact Natara Feller, Esq., Managing Partner of Feller Law Group, PLLC at (212) 590-0145 or at natarafeller@feller.law.

 

[1] Case 12-M-0476 et al., Order Adopting a Prohibition on Service to Low-Income Customers by Energy Service Companies (issued December 16, 2016) at 3-4.

[2] Case 12-M-0476 at al., Petition for Rehearing and Clarification of the Impacted ESCO Coalition (Jan. 17, 2017) at 4.

[3] NEM et. al. v. NYPSC (Albany County Index No. 868-16).

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.”

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