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Illinois Commerce Commission Staff Do Not Object To ComEd's Pilot To Market Utility-Supplied Real-Time Pricing, With No Risk, To Residential Customers Expected To Save Money, Based On AMI Data

ICEA Calls Program Anti-Competitive

June 20, 2019

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Copyright 2010-19
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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In a brief, Staff of the Illinois Commerce Commission stated that they do not object to a modified program proposed by Commonwealth Edison to established a short-term pilot program as part of its Residential Real Time Pricing Program rider (Rider RRTP), to offer first-year bill protection to new real-time pricing participants, with the program marketed to default service customers expected to save money under the program, based on a review of their AMI data (Bill Protection Experiment)

The bill protection will provide that, for the 12 month pilot, customers who would have ended up paying more under real-time pricing than standard default service will be held harmless.

ComEd had initially proposed to market the real-time pricing Bill Protection Guarantee (BPG) to approximately 10,000 customers on default service with an expected response rate leading to enrollment of approximately 1,500 customers.

One change sought by Staff, and agreed to by ComEd, is limiting the number of customers that can accept the Bill Protection Guarantee (BPG) offer to the first 700 customers to enroll

The limit on the number of customers eligible for the BPG also addressed Staff's concerns about impacts on the competitive retail market

Staff had initially testified that the originally proposed plan potentially created barriers to competition, because the retail suppliers would not have access to the same broad set of AMI data as ComEd, and thus would not be able to undertake such a large scale, targeted marketing effort. ComEd has access to AMI interval usage data for all of its 3.6 million residential customers with smart meters, while retail suppliers do not have access to that same information. While a supplier can obtain individual customer authorization to access AMI data from its own customers, the majority of suppliers have just a few thousand residential customers so those customers would likely represent a very small percentage of ComEd customers with smart meters, Staff had noted.

The Illinois Competitive Energy Association in a brief urged the ICC to reject ComEd’s proposed changes to Rate RRTP, "because ComEd is proposing an anti-competitive program whose justifications do not withstand scrutiny."

ICEA wrote, "There does not appear to be any disagreement in the docket that time-variant supply rates -- where a customer’s price per kilowatt-hour depends on when they are using electricity -- can provide substantial benefits to both customers on those rates and all customers. There is also no disagreement that currently there are limited options for time-variant rates in ComEd’s service territory other than ComEd’s real-time pricing program, known as Rate RRTP. There is no dispute that virtually all residential customers in the ComEd service territory have advanced meters that can record customer usage at least every half hour. The essential dispute is whether ComEd should goose participation in Rate RRTP through unfair and potentially illegal use of data and subsidies on customer bills, or greatly reduce the primary barrier to ARESs offering time-of-use products and services. The former is ComEd’s proposal—which the Commission should reject -- and the latter is ICEA’s proposal -- which the Commission should adopt."

ICEA said that, "As with most of ComEd’s functions in its distribution utility role, ComEd’s management of interval data is highly regulated."

ICEA said that, "Setting aside ComEd’s insistence that it can do what it wants with interval data, at first blush it would appear that the question of whether ComEd can without customer consent use the interval data it collects as a distribution utility for the purposes of marketing a supply rate is a question of first impression. However, while true that the Commission has not explicitly addressed this narrow question, the Commission -- as required by statute -- has addressed limitations on how ComEd’s distribution function interacts with others, including ComEd’s supply function. This includes Part 452 of the Commission’s Rules, highlighted by Section 452.260 (83 Ill. Admin. Code § 452.260.) As described in further detail in Section III infra, this longstanding rule prevents ComEd from using customer data obtained in its role as a distribution utility for the purposes of marketing a supply rate."

"While ComEd does not use or need this interval data in its supply function to bill Rate BES customers, ComEd in its function as a supplier is planning to use this interval data to market a different supply option (Rate RRTP) to certain customers. ComEd will do this by analyzing all residential Rate BES customers’ data without their consent and allowing a third-party RRTP program administrator to send solicitation materials to those customers," ICEA said

ICEA said that the Commission should order ComEd to use interval data from AMI meters for billing and settlement of all customers. ICEA expects this step to remove the primary barrier to alternative retail electric suppliers (ARES) offering more time-of-use and dynamic-priced retail energy products that allow customers to get value from their advanced meters.

In a brief, ComEd called ICEA's concerns "unfounded."

ComEd said that the RRTP program has struggled to gain widespread traction among residential customers. "As of December 2018, just over 26,000 customers are enrolled in RRTP -- less than 1% of the 3.6 million residential customers in the ComEd service territory. Market research indicates that customers are concerned about the risk of paying more on hourly pricing versus standard pricing, and that these concerns represent a significant barrier to enrollment. The Bill Protection Experiment represents one method for potentially resolving those concerns, and thereby increasing enrollment in RRTP," ComEd said

Regarding use of customer data, ComEd said that the separate administrator of the real-time pricing program is authorized by statute to obtain the data. "Moreover, Commission approval is not required when ComEd uses its customers’ usage data for utility purposes," ComEd said

ComEd said, "ComEd’s proposed Bill Protection Experiment does not constitute a barrier to competition."

ComEd said that ICC has previously addressed avenues under which suppliers may obtain interval data for their customers, upon customer authorization. "Moreover, even without customer authorization, RES may obtain access to information regarding the customer’s account, such as whether its customer is on ComEd’s Peak Time Savings or AC Cycling programs, which can be used to identify customers that have demonstrated an interest in managing electricity consumption," ComEd said

"Thus, several avenues exist for RESs to obtain data that would enable them to market a real-time pricing product, both to customers currently served by the RES, and to customers served by ComEd. More importantly, in light of the availability of data via these avenues, there is no basis to conclude that the Bill Protection Experiment ComEd proposes here will negatively impact competition," ComEd said

ComEd said that its proposal does not violate the Commission’s Integrated Distribution Company Rules, 83 Ill. Adm. Code § 452.

Docket No. 18-1772

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