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April 3, 2020
Small Business Relief in the CARES Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that became law last week includes a number of provisions aimed at small business relief. This includes the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program and Small Business Administration (SBA) counseling services. The CARES Act provides $349 billion for small businesses through federally backed loans under a modified and expanded SBA 7(a) loan guaranty program called the Paycheck Protection Program. The CARES Act also provides an additional $10 billion into the SBA's existing EIDL program, expands eligibility for EIDL loans, and waives certain requirements for all applicants.

Both the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and the U.S. House Small Business Committee have released guides to the small business provisions of the CARES Act. The Paycheck Protection Program application is available here. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan application is available here.

FERC COVID19 Emergency Measures

FERC has adopted a number of measures in response to the COVID19 emergency. It has extended the filing deadlines for Form 552 - Annual Report of Gas Trasnactions and Form 920 - Electric Quarterly Report to June 1, 2020. It has also extended RTO/ISO posting of all Uplift Reports and Operator Initiated Commitment Reports that otherwise would have been due to be posted between April 2020 and September 2020 until October 20, 2020, although they may post the reports earlier or seek a further extension as needed.

FERC announced other actions in response to the emergency including the expeditious processing of standards of conduct waiver requests and no-action letters. It was clarified that the COVID19 pandemic qualifies as an emergency, triggering the suspension of certain standards of conduct posting requirements under FERC regulations.

Additional measures being taken by FERC include:

"* Enforcement staff will be in communication with the subjects of continuing non-public investigations and audits, and entities with continuing compliance obligations associated with completed enforcement cases. Staff will work with each entity to provide flexibility with discovery-related or other deadlines through July 31, 2020. Subjects are encouraged to reach out directly to OE staff with any questions about deadlines.
* Enforcement staff will not begin any new audits until July 31, 2020.
* Enforcement staff will only contact entities regarding surveillance inquiries that involve market behavior that could result in significant risk of harm to the market and thus require immediate attention. Inquiries not requiring immediate attention will be postponed to a later date.
* Entities may delay for 60 days the submission of self-reports that involve inadvertent errors producing no significant harm to the markets, ratepayers or other market participants."

FERC also noted its continued market surveillance activities. The full text of the COVID19 Emergency Orders are available on the NEM Website.

Click here to view all past updates.
PURA Report to the Legislature on Electric Competition

As required by statute, PURA filed its annual Report to the Legislature on the State of Competition in the Electric Industry. There are fifty-nine suppliers licensed in Connecticut, and forty-two currently serve customers. As of December 2019, Eversource and UI served a total of 1,595,155 customer accounts in Connecticut - 1,433,736 residential, 160,368 commercial, and 1,051 last resort service. Twenty-six percent (415,421) of the total number of customer accounts chose to shop with an electric supplier - 340,719 residential, 73,778 commercial and 924 LRS accounts. Electric shopping customers constituted almost 53% of the total load statewide as of December 2019.

Electric supplier customer complaints from the period 2015 through 2019 show a downward decline as follows: 2015 (802 complaints); 2016 (568 complaints); 2017 (620 complaints); 2018 (417 complaints) and 2019 (201 complaints).

Regarding supplier rates, PURA notes that utilities are required to report residential Monthly Supplier Rates for all customers that are billed through the utilities. The data for 2019 from these reports indicates that,

"during the first half of 2019, over 40% of customers enrolled with a supplier paid greater than the Standard Service rate for their generation supply. For the first half of 2019, the average supplier rate in the Eversource territory was $0.10569 per kWh (compared to Standard Service rate of $0.10143 per kWh) and the average supplier rate in the UI territory was $0.110971 per kWh (compared to Standard Service rate of $0.112263 per kWh).

The percentage of supplier customers paying more than Standard Service increased significantly in the second half of 2019, with almost 88% of UI customers enrolled with suppliers paying more than Standard Service and 81.5% of Eversource’s customers enrolled with a supplier paying more than Standard Service. During the second half of 2019, the average supplier rate in the Eversource territory was $0.102033 per kWh, compared to a Standard Service rate of $0.8123 per kWh; in the UI territory, the average supplier rate was $0.108493 per kWh, compared to a Standard Service rate of $083532 per kWh.

The Authority presents this information as a snapshot of supplier rates charged in 2019, but recognizes that supplier contracts may last for longer than six-month Standard Service rates and therefore may reflect risk premiums not reflected in Standard Service rates. Supplier rates may include other terms (such as gift card incentives, cancellation fees, or monthly fees) that are not calculated in the rates. In addition, some customers may be served under contracts with renewable energy content that exceeds Connecticut’s minimum renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The generation supply rate for such offers may exceed the Standard Service rate."

The full text of the Report is available on the NEM Website.

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NEM Comments in Retail Market Investigation

NEM filed comments on the Tier Two initiatives and proposed license renewal process in the Department’s retail market investigation. The Tier Two initiatives included a proposal by Staff to require customers, during the third party verification process, to affirmatively state the product information included in a contract summary form in order for a competitive supplier to proceed with enrolling the customers. NEM noted the practical difficulties for suppliers and consumers of complying with this requirement in the telemarketing context because the consumer would not have the contract summary in-hand. Staff also proposed to require customers to identify the phone number and name that appears on the customer’s phone during telemarketing to protect them against spoofing. NEM explained that there are practical limitations to this proposal because fewer people use landline phones. As a result, fewer people have and use the caller identification function showing the caller phone number and name. Cell phones only display the phone number of the caller and not the name (unless the caller is already in the cell phone’s address book).

The Department requested the utilities to devise a joint plan to implement an “enroll with your wallet” (EWYW) approach. NEM supported the implementation of an EWYW program because the customer account number requirement has been a significant barrier to energy choice.

Finally, NEM said that Staff's proposal establishing a uniform policy applicable in the case that a licensee fails to timely file a license renewal application generally seems reasonable with the addition of a rule provision to make clear that a supplier will be provided with notice of the suspension and an opportunity to respond. The full text of NEM's Comments is available on the NEM Website.

Of additional note, the Consumer Advocates and electric utilities made a joint filing on the issue of EWYW. In the filing they oppose the elimination of the customer account number requirement because they allege "removal of this requirement (1) will almost certainly result in increased unauthorized enrollments; (2) would require costly utility billing system upgrades and additional administrative and overhead costs; and (3) will have absolutely none of the beneficial effects that the suppliers claim, based on experiences in other states." The full text of the Joint Consumer Advocate/Electric Utilities Filing is available on the NEM Website.

New Jersey
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2021 BGS Proceeding

The Board issued an Order initiating the 2021 Basic Generation Service (BGS) proceeding. Following Board procedure for the prior nineteen years on BGS, the proceeding will examine the procurement process for BGS-Residential and Small Commercial Pricing (RSCP) and BGS-Commercial and Industrial Energy Pricing (CIEP) requirements, and the capacity and energy needs of Rockland’s non-PJM service area within New Jersey, for the period beginning June 1, 2021. The Board issued Orders in 2018 and 2019 approving the use a descending clock auction to procure two-thirds of the State’s BGS-RSCP requirements for the period beginning June 1, 2021, and ending May 31, 2022. "If the EDCs continue to propose a three (3) year rolling product as in the past, the BGS RSCP requirements procured for the period beginning June 1, 2021 will supply one-third of the BGS RSCP load for the period June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2024."

The Board adopted the following preliminary procedural schedule for the proceeding:

7/01/2020 - Filing of Proposals and/or Modifications for BGS for the period beginning June 1, 2021
7/22/2020 - Discovery request deadline
8/5/2020 - Discovery response deadline
9/4/2020 - Deadline for Initial Comments on all proposals
TBA - Legislative-type Hearing
TBA - Public Hearings
10/5/2020 - Deadline for Final Comments
Nov. 2020 - Expected Board decision on BGS proposals
Dec 2020 - Utility Compliance Filings
Dec. 2020 - Expected Board decision on Compliance Filings
Feb. 2021- Procurement Process for BGS Supply requirements

The full text of the Order Initiating BGS Proceeding is available on the NEM Website.

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