February 7, 2020
|NEM's 23rd Annual National Energy Restructuring Conference|
NEM will convene its 23rd Annual National Energy Restructuring Conference on April 8-10, 2020, at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. An agenda is forthcoming. You may use this link to register.
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|Commission Issues Order in Power Path Proceeding|
The Commission issued an Order in its Power Path proceeding on grid modernization. Of particular relevance, the Commission adopted the following requirements:
1) Pepco and WGL must create a secure web portal for sharing non-public, locationally-specific system-level data between the utility and third parties responding to RFPs and with the government agencies developing Distributed Energy Resource programs.
2) A Retail Choice Microsite is under development by the Commission to enhance consumers ability to shop for competitive offers. As explained in the Order,
"The Commission believes this new enhanced interactive site will give District residents the flexibility to review current supplier offers by using the microsite’s interactive calculators, comparison tools, toggles, and graphs. The Commission’s goal is to make the energy retail choice shopping experience effective and user friendly. The microsite will be integrated with the Commission’s existing website and will be branded as the official site to shop for suppliers’ offers. Through this integration process, competitive energy suppliers will have the opportunity to log-in to update their offers as frequently as they deem necessary. Energy suppliers will have an offer submission form that will contain among other things their rate schedules (fixed or variable), offer price per kWh (allowing up to 15 individual offers per supplier), contract length, renewable energy fuel mix, related fees, offer details (to include promotional offers and introductory rates), terms of service, and a sign-up link."
The microsite launch will be accompanied by a consumer education campaign.
3) The Rate Design Working Group will be reconvened to holistically review and assess best practice rate designs for achieving the District's clean energy and technology goals, including a new residential Dynamic Pricing program.
4) A new docket on microgrids will be opened to "further investigate microgrid ownership and operation structures, business models and value propositions, benefits and costs of microgrids, the different microgrid variances which lead to appropriate microgrid classifications and regulatory treatment."
5) Staff is directed to finalize and issue a proposed rulemaking on the definitions of non-wires alternatives and advanced inverters.
The full text of the Power Path Order is available on the NEM Website.
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|Department Requests Comments in Retail Market Investigation|
The Department opened a retail market investigation in January 2019. After review of comments submitted, the Department convened technical sessions for stakeholder input on various issues that were organized into tiers, based on expected time needed to implement them. The Department has now issued Tier One initiatives for comment by March 5th, for possible Department Order. Tier Two initiatives have also been issued for comment by March 19th, for further consideration of next steps. Of note, the proposals apply to both the electric and natural gas markets (with the exception of Energy Switch website matter).
Tier One Initiatives for Comment
1) License application review - information about pending new license applications would be posted on the Department website, and subject to a 15 business day comment period. Further comments may be requested by the Department depending on responses received. The Department would inform an applicant within twenty days of a determination that no further information is required whether the application has been approved or denied. All material collected would be posted on the Department website.
2) License renewals - does not propose to post license renewal information on the Department website.
3) Notification of door-to-door marketing - Suppliers would be required to submit a separate door-to-door marketing notification for each day that they expect to conduct such marketing, no later than two business days prior to the applicable marketing day. Suppliers would be required to identify the municipalities where they may be marketing on the applicable day (or the neighborhoods in which they may be marketing for specified municipalities such as Boston) and whether the supplier has obtained, is working on obtaining or no permit is required. Suppliers would be limited to identifying a maximum of three municipalities per notification. Notification would also be required to be provided to the Attorney General.
4) Identification of third party marketing vendors - Suppliers would be required to provide the Department, on an ongoing basis, with updated lists of third-party door-to-door and telemarketing vendors, to include information on background checks and standards of conduct that competitive suppliers currently provide through their door-to-door notifications. The information would also be required to be provided to the Attorney General. Comment is sought on whether suppliers should provide this information to other stakeholders on a confidential basis. This reporting is intended as an initial step in developing a process to identify problematic marketing vendors.
5) Disclosure of product information - Suppliers would be required to use a template “Staff Proposed Contract Summary Form” for all products, except a) products for which the price varies on a monthly basis - use language in the price and term sections that describe the applicable price structure and term of the product; b) products for which the renewable content exceeds the minimum requirement - use language that describes the renewable resources that comprise the “voluntary” component of the product; c) products that include fees other than an early cancellation fee or enrollment fee - include language that describes such fees; and d) products that include additional incentives or “value-added” products and services - use language that describes such incentives. Suppliers would be required to submit contract summary forms for Department review in the listed instances. The contract summary form would be provided to customers at the point of sale.
6) Door-to-door and telemarketing scripts - Suppliers would be required to use introductory scripts for door-to-door and telemarketing that require identification of the name of the vendor and supplier that the vendor represents as well as that the supplier is not affiliated with the utility or a municipality energy program. "At no time during the door-to-door and telemarketing interactions shall the marketing agent identify the name of customer distribution company."
7) Recording of marketing interactions - Suppliers would be required to record telemarketing calls, in addition to third party verification calls.
8) Marketing materials - Suppliers would be required to submit updated versions of direct mail marketing materials, including the envelope, for Department review prior to the use of such materials. Direct mail marketing materials should: "1) display the competitive supplier name and logo at the top of the document (thus clearly identifying the competitive supplier as the sender); 2) clearly state that the competitive supplier is not affiliated with the customer’s utility; 3) clearly communicate that the notice is an advertisement for the sale of a product; 4) disclose pertinent information about the product(s) being marketed; and 5) not use false or misleading headers or subject lines, such as “action requested” or “urgent notification about your utility bill/account.”" If the Department has not responded within ten days of receipt of the materials, the supplier may use them.
9) Automatic renewal - Suppliers would be required to provide customers with automatic renewal notifications between 30 and 60 days prior to the expiration of contracts that have such provisions using an automatic renewal notification template.
10) Competitive supplier reports - Suppliers would be required to report on a quarterly basis the number of residential customers they serve through automatic renewal provisions.
11) Competitive supplier enrollment reports - Suppliers would be required to report on a quarterly basis the total number of residential customers and the number of low-income customers they enrolled during the quarter through: 1) door-to-door marketing; 2) telemarketing; and 3) other marketing channels. Suppliers would be required to report on the total number of residential and low-income customers they are serving as of the last day of the quarter. The information is to be reported separately for each utility service territory.
12) Energy Switch website - Municipal aggregation products would be listed on a voluntary basis by the municipality. The website order of product listing would be: basic service product, municipal aggregation default product, and then competitive supply products.
Tier Two Initiatives for Comment
1) Third Party Verification - Comment is requested on the benefits of requiring customers, during the TPV process, to affirmatively state the product information included in the contract summary form in order for a competitive supplier to proceed with enrolling the customers as well as requiring customers to identify the telephone number and name that appears on the customer’s telephone during telemarketing
2) Customer account number - Utilities were requested to jointly develop a process to implement an “enroll with your wallet” approach.
Staff also proposes to establish a uniform policy regarding licensees that fail to timely submit a renewal application. If an electricity broker or natural gas agent fails to submit a renewal application within thirty days of the due date, the license would be suspended. If the renewal application were submitted within ninety days by the suspended broker/agent, the license would suspension would be lifted. If a competitive supplier fails to submit a renewal application within thirty days of the due date, the suppliers ability to enroll new customers would be suspended. If the renewal application is submitted within ninety days from the renewal date, the suspension would be lifted.
The full text of the Request for Comments is available on the NEM Website.
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|Board Proposes Changes to Energy Competition Rules|
The Board has issued proposed changes to the energy competition rules for comment. First, the Board proposed changes to implement the recent law providing that retail electric and natural gas supplier licenses do not expire if the supplier timely submits an Annual Information Update Form and annual license fee.
Additional proposed changes include:
1) Clarifying the physical New Jersey office requirement to exclude a post office box, rented mail receiving space, virtual office or a New Jersey registered agent address;
2) Requiring a supplier to post on the supplier's website projected price comparison information for residential and small commercial customers. "This website page shall contain current and accurate pricing information, and shall be maintained and updated by the supplier regularly. Customers shall have access to the posted information without being required to provide personal customer information other than the following: zip code, distribution company, type of service (electric or gas), and customer class (residential or small commercial). The direct Internet pricing link to the supplier's website page with the posted information shall be provided to the Board with the initial application, Annual Information Update Form, within 10 days of the effective date of changes to the Internet link;"
3) Expanding the documentation in a supplier application to include the material terms and conditions summary page; a certification of compliance with FTC telemarketing sales rules; and a certification of compliance with federal, state and municipal door-to-door rules;
4) Clarifying the surety bond filing requirement such that it be required to be submitted within sixty days of filing an initial application, but no later than two weeks prior to the approval date of the application. Thirty days prior to the expiration of a surety bond, the licensee would be required to file a renewed surety bond for at least the next annual period; and
5) Requiring a licensee or registrant to provide written notification to Staff no later than ten days after any changes in contact information (name of regulatory contact, New Jersey mailing address, email, phone numbers of company representatives and contacts).
Comments are due April 3, 2020. The full text of the NOPR is available at this link.
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