Murtha Means More

Energy Group News - August 2013

August 30, 2013

By: Robert J. Munnelly, Jr.

New England Retail Electric Supply Update

The five restructured New England states are now hotbeds of competitive electric retail activity, with Connecticut becoming a national leader, explosive growth in both Maine and New Hampshire, and steady growth in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Key regulatory dockets create opportunities and challenges for suppliers.

Rule Changes on Horizon

Connecticut and New Hampshire have new dockets to amend competitive supplier rules. Substantive proceedings should commence shortly. The Connecticut case may be particularly far-reaching, with topics to include "customer switching practices, types of generation services or products allowed (fixed, variable rates, etc.), PURA filing requirements, the Rate Board, supplier marketing conduct, customer notices, and disclosure requirements." In addition, Massachusetts DPU staff has been implementing license review process improvements, including possible changes to the longstanding supplier/broker application. Finally, based on statutory directives, the Connecticut PURA just opened several additional dockets relating to supplier billing components, billing formats and default notifications.

Market Liberalization Highlights Need for Operational Changes

The boom in retail activity has highlighted many potential competitive barriers in utility practices. Most notably, the New Hampshire PUC will hold hearings on high customer switching, billing and collections fees in the PSNH service territory and has vowed to consider reforms to pre-competition payment hierarchy rules. Maine opened a docket to consider changes to its standard offer and payment hierarchy rules; initial briefing was completed in early June and an additional round of comments has just been requested. Finally, purchase of receivables ("PoR") dockets are being considered, with mixed results. In Massachusetts, the five year effort to implement PoR is nearing conclusion. In New Hampshire, retail suppliers requested voluntary dismissal of the nearly two year old PoR docket in order to enable the Commission to focus attention on more competition-critical regulatory issues before them.

States Ramp Up Enforcement: Are You at Risk?

New England utility commissions maintain strict consumer protection standards and they investigate and sanction non-complying retail suppliers. The leader is the Connecticut PURA, which has opened up several investigations against suppliers with alleged compliance problems. The New Hampshire PUC has been investigating a supplier who failed to meet ISO-New England supply requirements, triggering customer migration. The Massachusetts DPU has delayed initial and renewal licensing of suppliers who use or plan to use what the DPU considers to be potentially problematic marketing channels, including door-to-door sales and forms of so-called "multi-level marketing."

We Can Help With Your New England Needs

The New England retail market is dynamic and challenging, with opportunities and risks. The Murtha Cullina Energy Practice Group has extensive experience representing retail electric suppliers and supplier interests in all five restructured New England states, including licensing, ongoing regulatory compliance, and representation in industry dockets and supplier-specific investigations.

Please contact Rob Munnelly at 617-457-4062 or (all New England states), Paul McCary at 860-240-6037 or (Connecticut), or any other members of our Energy Group if you have questions about the information contained in this Alert.


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