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N.J. Assembly Chair Says Update of Retail Choice Law Needed to Spur Robust Market

June 18, 2013

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Copyright 2010-13
Reporting by Karen Abbott •

New Jersey Assembly Utilities Chairman Upendra Chivukula yesterday announced that it is important to update the Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act of 1999 to reflect changes in the marketplace and to evolve a fully articulated retail energy policy for New Jersey as well as a road map for the industry towards achieving those policy goals.

Chivukula made the announcement after the Assembly Telecom & Utilities Committee recently heard testimony from stakeholders on issues concerning the State's retail electric supply policy and ways to better serve New Jersey's ratepayers.

"It's been nearly fifteen years since the deregulation of New Jersey's power industry following the enactment of EDECA in 1999, and we find that the passage of the law has not realized one of its most important objectives - to spur retail competition. The state's power and energy industry continue to be dominated by major utilities with small companies having a very small share," Chivukula (D-Somerset\Middlesex) said.

"On Thursday, we heard testimony from stakeholders on the state of the energy marketplace in New Jersey and the challenges to competition, that will help us explore solutions including legislative fixes that will ultimately benefit ratepayers," Chivukula said. "We look forward to moving forward to promote a robust and sustainable competitive retail market that provides value added products and services to consumers."

At the recent hearing, witnesses testified on the following issues:

• Lowering the threshold for hourly pricing from 500 kW to 250 kW;

• Increasing consumer education on price and service comparisons;

• Moving the obligation of compliance with Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) from Basic Generation Service (BGS) suppliers to Electric Distribution Companies (EDCs) through long-term contracts;

• Encouraging long-term contracting that would enable renewable energy developers such as wind energy companies to make necessary investments to keep pace with the increasing requirements and would prevent price volatility.

Separately, a bill (A-3422) has cleared the Assembly Utilities committee to address misleading telemarketing by retail suppliers, which would, among other things, prohibit a supplier from contacting a potential residential customer by telephone more than once per calendar year for the purpose of making an unsolicited advertisement if the supplier does not have an existing business relationship with the potential residential customer.

Consistent with existing penalties, the bill would impose fines of up to $25,000 per day for violations of the telemarketing standards, and would also make license revocation an available remedy.

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