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Utility's Proposed Tariff Language Would Allow It To Suspend Utility Consolidated Billing If Supplier "Not Following" State's Administrative Code Rules

June 2, 2020

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Copyright 2010-20
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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As part of a recently filed electric rate case, AEP Ohio has proposed tariff language that would allow it to terminate "Company consolidated billing services" in the event that a competitive retail electric service (CRES) provider is not following the, "Ohio Administrative Code rules."

However, a narrative description of the proposed tariff change is not consistent with the actual tariff language, and states that the change would apply to supplier consolidated billing, not Company consolidated billing

In both clean and redline versions of the tariff, AEP Ohio proposes language stating, "The Company maintains the right to terminate Company consolidated billing services in the event that the CRES providers are not following the Ohio Administrative Code rules. Prior to removal, the Company will provide the CRES provider with code violation notifications and will terminate services after three consecutive months after notification."

The term "Company consolidated billing" refers to the billing of retail supplier charges on the AEP Ohio bill (utility consolidated billing)

However a narrative section describing the proposed tariff change refers only to Supplier Consolidated Billing, and does not mention a proposed change in this manner to Company consolidated billing

The narrative states that the proposed tariff, "Added a section that allows the Company to terminate Supplier Consolidated Billing (SCB) services if the CRES Provider is not following the rules. The Company proposes to offer a three strikes policy before terminating SCB."

The narrative further states, "This is consistent with AEP Ohio's SCB pilot program."

Putting aside the discrepancy, to the extent the proposed authority is intended to apply to Company consolidated billing (UCB), the language is broad and does not further delineate the manner in which the Company will adjudicate how a supplier may not be following the OAC rules. The language does not specify how a supplier will be informed of any alleged instance of "not following" the rules (note that the term "not following" is used rather than more formal language such as 'violation'). The language also does not specify any process to challenge any such determination, nor a cure period (though there is the noted "three strikes" policy).

Additionally, the language broadly refers to, "the Ohio Administrative Code rules," without any additional specificity. Taken to the literal extreme, this proposal could allow AEP Ohio to terminate UCB service to a supplier for OAC violations which have no impact on customer billing or AEP Ohio, or even those which do not implicate broader customer protection concerns (e.g. sales and marketing), and which do not relate to the safety or integrity of the AEP Ohio system or the welfare of customers or general public (i.e., OAC rules may deal with various subjects which deal solely with CRES internal corporate matters including workforce development and taxation)

This is in contrast to the more detailed language concerning a retail supplier default under the tariff, which is contained in a separate section. Notably, the language under the default section already gives AEP Ohio broad authority to suspend or terminate service to a supplier, and provides that a supplier is in default if, among other things: the supplier fails a "material obligation" under the supplier terms and conditions; the supplier's action or inaction has or will jeopardize the operational integrity, safety, or reliability of the Company’s transmission or distribution system; and the CRES Provider misuses the Company Consolidated Bill-Ready Billing option by incorrectly using the name of the Company or the name of one of the Company’s affiliates in a charge description or otherwise using this billing option in a misleading or defamatory manner

The supplier default language includes specific notice of suspension/termination procedures and the filing of a notice with PUCO, and requires authorization by PUCO (though inaction by PUCO in response to a notice by various deadlines will deem such termination authorized)

In other changes under the tariff, AEP Ohio said that it has added "clarity", with no change in policy, concerning retail supplier requests for historical usage

Under the new language, "CRES Providers certified by the Commission may request historical interval meter data through an Electronic Data Interchange transaction ('EDI Transaction') after receiving the appropriate customer authorization (Letter of Authorization or LOA)."

The term "Letter of Authorization or LOA" has been added to describe the authorization, and new language also states, "CRES Providers must have on file an LOA and must provide the LOA upon request by the Company or PUCO Staff, subject to periodic audit."

AEP Ohio is also changing the manner in which it complies with OAC 4901:1-10-12 (G), which concerns the provision, upon request, of a list of active residential suppliers to customers

AEP Ohio will now use the list of active suppliers on PUCO's Apples to Apples site for the list

AEP Ohio proposes revised language stating that, "Upon request, customers will be referred to the Commission’s Apples to Apples on-line comparison chart to compare current offers or will be mailed an information package containing a summary of the Customer Choice program and a current list of CRES Providers."

This proposed language provides that this referral to Apples to Apples (or mailed list) will only be provided, "upon request".

While this is consistent with OAC 4901:1-10-12 (G), the current tariff language provides that AEP Ohio will provide an active supplier list automatically to certain customers, even without a specific customer request

Specifically, AEP Ohio proposes striking current language stating that, "The list of CRES Providers will be provided to any customer upon request, all new customers, any customer who is dropped for nonpayment by a CRES Provider, and any customer who returns to the Company’s Standard Offer Service due to default by a CRES Provider."

AEP Ohio's supplemental filing includes a cost of service study

As done in a notice of pre-filing (first reported by here), the latest redlined tariff also maintains the current $0 value for the mechanisms previously adopted by PUCO as a potential proxy to reflect supply-related costs, embedded in AEP Ohio's distribution rates, in AEP Ohio's bypassable supply rate -- namely the bypassable "Retail Reconciliation Rider" and nonbypassable "SSO Credit Rider".

See more background on the bypassable "Retail Reconciliation Rider" and nonbypassable "SSO Credit Rider" here

Case No. 20-586-EL-ATA

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