PUC Provides Insight On Application Of Bill Cap Used To Compare Default Service To Retail Supply
October 24, 2018 Email This Story Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio issued a ruling on a complaint case against an entity engaged in submetering (Nationwide Energy Partners, LLC, or NEP), which provided an opportunity for the Commission to opine on application of its previously adopted bill cost (price) test on default service versus competitive retail supply that PUCO uses to determine (under a rebuttable presumption) whether a submetering entity is acting as a public utility
As previously reported by EnergyChoiceMatters.com, PUCO previously ruled that, under this test, a submetering reseller shall be, under a rebuttable presumption, considered a public utility if the reseller charges an amount that is greater than what the submetered residential customer would have been charged through the local public utility's default service tariffs
Specifically, PUCO previously found that a submeterer would not be subject to regulation as a public utility if the Reseller's annual charges for a utility service to an individual submetered resident do not exceed what the resident would have paid under the local public utility's default service tariff for equivalent annual usage on a total bill basis. This exception is justified, PUCO said, because the resident can not be considered harmed by the submetered arrangement if the resident is paying the same amount as if the resident was served directly by the public utility.
In a complaint case (Case No. 17-2002-EL-CSS), a customer alleged various submetering entities are public utilities, and alleged that she has been harmed by paying more for electric service than if she was directly served by AEP Ohio
In the case, the complainant has submitted with her complaint a single month's bill for electrical service from the submeterer dated June 27, 2017 in the amount of $40.93, but no comparison of her bill with what she would have paid for the same usage had she been served directly by AEP Ohio
Addressing its consideration of the cost comparison, PUCO said, "We will accept Complainant's unsupported allegation that this amount exceeds what she would have paid for the same usage had she been served directly by AEP Ohio and conclude that Complainant has met the Relative Price Test."
"However, in future submetering complaints seeking to assert the Relative Price Test, the Commission will require the complainant to provide both an actual bill and the amount she would have paid for the same usage had she been served directly by AEP Ohio. Complainants should cooperate with the Commission's Staff and/or the appropriate local public utility in developing such comparison, which should also be included with the complaint," PUCO said
PUCO noted that, as previously reported, each utility has been previously ordered to provide a website tool or other mechanism to provide submetered residential customers with an estimated calculation of what a customer would have paid for equivalent usage under default service
NEP, the submetering entity, responded that the electric usage rates which it billed to the complainant did not exceed what the complainant would have paid on an annual basis if she had been directly served under AEP Ohio's residential default rates. In support of this assertion, NEP presented its bills to the complainant and its calculation of the five monthly billing periods, from June 4 through October 25,2017, as well as statements in an affidavit that NEP's invoiced charges to the complainant have been $8.07 less than AEP Ohio's default service tariff charges for that same period and usage. PUCO noted that the complainant does not dispute these calculations.
"As noted above, the Complainant here only submitted one month's bill from NEP and has not offered additional evidence to dispute the Respondents' evidence that during her tenancy, NEP's invoiced charges were less than what she would have paid for the same period and usage under AEP Ohio's default service tariff on an annualized basis. Thus, Complainant does not dispute NEP's calculation of the charges and has provided no other evidence to dispute NEP's calculation. After reviewing the record in this case and accepting all material allegations of the Complaint as true, and construing such allegations in favor of the complaining party, the Commission finds that the provision of electric service to [complainant] Ms. Wingo's Creekside apartment, falls within the second Safe Harbor Exception. Accordingly, we will deem the provision of submetered electric service at Creekside to be incidental to the landlord's operations under the third prong of the Shroyer Test and, therefore, not subject to Commission jurisdiction.," PUCO said
PUCO further held that, "While we will adopt and apply the Relative Price Test to the resale of residential submetered electric service in this case, we expect that analysis in future submetering complaints may require longer comparison periods to reflect annualized data in accordance with the facts and circumstances of each specific arrangement."