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Nstar: "Recognizes Its Role As A Trusted Energy Advisor To Customers," Says MA Should Require CT-Style Next Cycle Rate Info On Retail Energy Customer Bills

Suggests Prohibiting Competitive Supply Service To Low-Income Customers

Calls Variable Rates A Barrier To An Efficient Residential Competitive Market

March 12, 2019

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Copyright 2010-19
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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In comments to the Massachusetts DPU, Nstar (Eversource) said that the DPU should require retail electric suppliers to provide the EDCs with customers' product information, including the next cycle rate, for inclusion on utility bills

Nstar's comments came in a DPU investigation reviewing the retail energy market and various customer protections, the opening of which had been first reported by (see story here).

Nstar stated, "the Company recognizes its role as a trusted energy advisor to customers in its service territory, and recognizes that the main way in which customers interact with the Company is through their monthly billing statement. Therefore, once a customer has decided to enter a contract with a competitive supplier, the Company believes strongly that it is important to provide information regarding a customer's specific competitive supply offering on their monthly bill. As outlined below, it would be appropriate to provide the following information on residential bills if and when a customer chooses to take competitive supply: a comparison of the competitive supply rate to the basic service rate, the term of the Customer's contract, any cancellation penalty included in the contract terms, and a phone number at which the customer can reach the competitive supplier with complaints."

"However, the Company strongly believes that the obligation to provide key competitive supply information, as it pertains to a specific customer's contract, lies with the Competitive Supplier serving that customers [sic], and to that end recommends the Department to develop rules that will require Competitive Suppliers to provide thorough and accurate information to customers that elect to take service under a Competitive Suppliers, and should use current or new regulations to punish deceptive behavior by bad actors in the competitive marketplace," Nstar said

"[I]n Connecticut the Company had difficulty receiving accurate information regarding the “Next Rate” of customers, with Competitive Suppliers failing to provide the information in a timely manner, and so the Department should enact rules and regulations that require Competitive Suppliers to provide accurate information in a timely way to the Company, with penalties for failure to comply with said directives. This requirement should be in addition to those discussed above, as the Supplier should be required to notify its customers of automatic renewal provisions in contracts," Nstar said

Nstar said that the information provided through bills should include the following: (1) supplier rate; (2) comparison to basic service; (3) contract termination date; (4) the date on which the customer's rate will next change; (5) whether a termination fee applies to this customer; and (6) contact information for the Customer's Competitive Supplier.

With such information provided by suppliers, Nstar said that it then can and will include the following on its residential electric bills to customers that have chosen a competitive supply option: • Supplier Rate: the generation rate charged per kilowatt hour by the supplier; • Term: describes how many bill cycles the Supplier Rate will apply; • Expiration: the meter read date the Supplier rate expires; • Next Cycle Rate: the supplier rate two billing cycles in the future; • Cancellation Fee: the fee for ending a supplier contract prior to its expiration; • Basic Service Rate: the current Eversource Basic Service rate; • The date of the next Eversource Basic Service rate change; • The total supplier charge to the customer that month; • A comparison to what the customer's charges would have been using Basic Service; • Contact information for your electric supplier; and • Contact information on how to return to basic service.

"The Company will need to receive this information from Competitive Suppliers at least two bill cycles in advance," Nstar said

Nstar also said that the DPU should, "consider changes to the way that low-income customers receive competitive supply, either by preventing Competitive Suppliers from enrolling low-income customers, or requiring Competitive Suppliers to never charge low-income customers a rate greater than basic service."

Nstar also said that supplier marketing materials and scripts for door-to-door marketing and telemarketing should be subject to review and approval by DPU

Nstar also said that, "Residential variable rates act as barriers to efficient competitive markets. It was found in Connecticut that residential variable rates were not benefitting customers. The state of Connecticut has eliminated variable rates, and requires competitive supply contracts to be at a fixed price for at least four-month increments. This ensures stability of bills over time and that consumers can make efficient and informed decisions about their supply needs."

Nstar supported creation of a "do not switch" or customer-initiated block list preventing transfers to competitive supply

D.P.U. 19-07

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