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Utility: Opt-out Aggregation Contracts Should be Subject to Public Records Act

July 9, 2013

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Copyright 2010-13
Reporting by Karen Abbott •

Ohio should require the disclosure of all incentives and commissions under opt-out municipal electric aggregation contracts, which should be subject to the state's public records law, several parties told PUCO in supplemental comments in Ohio's retail electric market investigation.

Duke Energy Ohio said that, "The Commission should require the disclosure of any and all inducements or incentives related to [government aggregation] commodity contracts through a filing at the Commission. The public should be aware of the existence of any such information or conditions which prompted the acceptance of contracts for governmental aggregation."

"The governmental aggregation contract should be a public record under Ohio's public records act. There is no reason not to provide such information as it ensures that offers are made and accepted in a responsible manner," Duke Energy Ohio said.

Similarly, Dayton Power and Light said that, "From a public policy perspective, all terms and conditions of government aggregation contracts should be disclosed. The city, village, or county should have the obligation to make all terms and conditions of electric aggregation service available for public inspection."

In separately filed comments, Duke Energy Retail and Duke Energy Commercial Asset Management said that, "As a general proposition, contracts with governmental entities are public records, as defined in R.C. 149.43. Consequently, information exchanged between the governmental entity and a counterparty should be subject to disclosure under Ohio's Public Records Act. Further, as these governmental entities are making purchasing decisions on behalf of their residential constituents, disclosure of information related to such decisions should be made available. In this regard, DER and DECAM support the required disclosure of information related to commodity contracts, including but not limited to, inducements, incentives, and broker commissions."

The Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy and other consumer groups said that, "The pricing offered by governmental aggregations should be as transparent as the SSO and CRES offers. This means that inducements or incentives, the price of which are embedded in the bid and affect the price ultimately paid by consumers, and the costs of the bid itself, including broker commissions and the cost of consultants, should be disclosed in a manner designed to ensure customers can compare the offer to others available in the marketplace."

Also with respect to opt-out aggregations, Interstate Gas Supply said that, "Cancellation fees for opt-out aggregations also create barriers to enrollment of customers organically."

IGS Energy noted that, "Many of the CRES suppliers that advocate for eliminating EDU minimum stay requirements and switching fees are also charging substantial cancellation fees to their government aggregation customers."

"However, the same rationale for eliminating EDU switching fees holds true for eliminating cancellation fees for opt-out aggregations; charging a fee to customers that wish to exercise their right to switch to a competitive supplier severely restricts customer participation and engagement in the competitive market," IGS Energy said

"Charging cancellation fees to customers that have not affirmatively consented to these fees creates a negative customer experience and is bad for the industry in the long run. Accordingly, the Commission should prohibit opt-out government aggregations from charging cancellation fees, unless the customer gives their affirmative consent upon enrollment," IGS Energy said.

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