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People's Counsel Presses PSC For Comparisons Of SOS, Retail Supplier Costs For Low-Income Customers

July 25, 2018

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Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • ring@energychoicematters.com

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In comments to the Maryland PSC on the Maryland Department of Human Services' Office of Home Energy Programs' (OHEP) Electric Universal Services Program (EUSP) Proposed Operations Plan for FY 2019, the Maryland Office of People's Counsel has renewed calls for the PSC to direct utilities to provide data comparing costs billed to low-income customers under SOS versus service from a retail supplier

"The Commission should require electric and gas utilities to provide the data needed to evaluate the impact of charges by retail energy suppliers on the electric and natural gas bills of low-income families participating in the EUSP and MEAP [Maryland Energy Assistance Program]," OPC said

"OHEP currently allows customers that purchase electricity or natural gas from retail energy suppliers to participate in the EUSP and MEAP. OPC has previously requested that the Commission consider gathering the data needed to gauge whether EUSP participants purchasing electricity from retail suppliers are consuming BPA [bill payment assistance] benefits at a faster rate than if those customers had been receiving Standard Offer Service from their local utilities," OPC said

"Other jurisdictions have similarly explored the impact of suppliers serving low-income customers (including those receiving subsidized rates or assistance programs). In New York, preliminary data suggested that households receiving electric and gas bill assistance and subsidies were overpaying due to high supplier rates, raising concerns that scarce energy assistance funds were not reaching the maximum number of eligible recipients. In response, the New York Public Service Commission imposed a partial moratorium on retail suppliers enrolling low-income customers," OPC said

"The Massachusetts Office of Attorney General recently released a report comparing residential electricity supplier prices with utility supply rates. The report specifically examines supplier prices charged to low-income electricity customers, concluding that low-income customers participate in the competitive supply market at twice the rate as non-low-income households, and paid an extra 17% more on average between 2016-2017 to suppliers than if they had taken generation service from their respective electric companies," OPC said

"Given the current lack of data on this issue here in Maryland, OPC again requests that the Commission order utilities to collect and report the data needed to evaluate the impact of charges by retail energy suppliers on the electric and gas bills of low-income families participating in both the EUSP and MEAP so that the information will be available for the EUSP Operation Plan filed for FY 2020," OPC said

Specifically, OPC requests that the utilities report:

• how many EUSP or MEAP customers receive electric or gas supply from a retail supplier;

• the total aggregate amount those customers paid in retail supply charges; and

• the total aggregate amount those customers would have paid for default (e.g. SOS or SS) service from the utility.

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