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Retail Supplier To Pay $3 Million, Return Customers In State To Default Service Under Settlement

July 6, 2022

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Copyright 2010-21
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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Public Power, LLC has agreed to pay $3 million, and it and several other Vistra-owned retail energy suppliers would return their Connecticut customers to default service and voluntarily relinquish their Connecticut licenses, under a settlement among Public Power, LLC, Viridian Energy, LLC, Connecticut Gas & Electric, Inc., Everyday Energy, LLC (the Crius Companies), Ambit Northeast, LLC, the Office of Education, Outreach, and Enforcement (EOE) of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, the Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), and the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Connecticut.

All of these suppliers are ultimately owned by Vistra

The settlement involves alleged violations of the Next Cycle Rate obligations by Public Power prior to its acquisition by Vistra in July 2019

Vistra provided the following statement concerning the matter:

"This settlement relates to a historical billing issue involving the transfer of customers’ 'next cycle rate' to the utility for inclusion on the utility bill and a voluntary 'amnesty' period offer to the market by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) that occurred before Vistra’s acquisition of Crius in July 2019. Since the acquisition, Vistra has been in discussions with Connecticut state regulators to resolve the matter. Given the challenging regulatory environment, Vistra agreed to a settlement that includes voluntarily exiting from the Connecticut retail energy market via relinquishment of retail licenses for all our brands.

"Ambit Energy, which has rates currently below the standard service rate, will continue to serve its customers through the summer; they will then receive a notice to either choose another service provider or be dropped to default service in September.

"Vistra strongly believes that consumers and businesses should benefit from healthy competition in the market as they select a product, plan, or pricing model that fits their personal preferences. This competition amongst suppliers also fosters innovation across the industry.

"In Connecticut and every market where we operate, Vistra does business the right way and supports a regulatory environment that protects consumers while promoting choice over default suppliers. "

--- Statement from Vistra

Specifically, under the settlement, the Crius Companies (as defined above) shall each immediately, voluntarily and permanently be deemed withdrawn from the Connecticut electric supplier market and their licenses deemed relinquished, with their customers to be scheduled, within 15 days of settlement approval, to be returned to default service

This relinquishment shall prevent the Crius Companies from serving any Connecticut customers and from marketing to any Connecticut customers other than to continue serving existing customers until those customers are successfully transferred to standard service, the settlement provides

Under the settlement, Ambit shall remove all offers from the Rate Board and shall cease to enroll or cause to be enrolled new customers or send renewal letters to existing customers.

As noted in Vistra's statement above, Ambit will continue to serve existing customers, who are paying a rate less than default service, through September. Ambit shall submit EDI transactions to the EDCs requesting that all remaining Ambit Connecticut customers be transitioned to standard service as of their September meter read date. Ambit's license would then be deemed relinquished

Unlike with the Crius Companies, the settlement would permit Ambit to re-apply for a supplier license on or after September 30, 2027. The settlement also does not prohibit any future Vistra company, other than the Crius Companies, from seeking a license on or after September 30, 2027

The $3 million payment by Public Power would be used to reduce hardship arrearages at the Connecticut EDCs

The settlement provides that, "This Settlement Agreement does not represent an admission of fault or concession by the Settling Parties as to the Claims, or facts or circumstances surrounding the Claims, or proper disposition of any issue related to this Settlement Agreement."

Connecticut Consumer Counsel Claire Coleman stated, "Consumers are entitled to timely and accurate information about electric rates. Public Power failed to provide the required transparency to its customers. As a result, today's settlement ensures that they can no longer participate in the Connecticut market. The funds from this settlement will make a substantial difference assisting customers who are in arrears for unpaid electric bills during a time of high energy prices and economic uncertainty. I would continue to advise all consumers participating in the electric supply market to use caution and remain vigilant about monitoring rate changes when doing so, particularly during this period of market volatility."

The Attorney General's office noted that in 2018, PURA discovered that many third-party electric suppliers had failed to correctly provide 'next cycle rate' information for customer bills. The AG's office said that, after discovering widespread non-compliance, PURA provided a previously reported "amnesty" window for suppliers, agreeing to forgive penalties for suppliers who voluntarily self-reported and reimbursed customers for unpublished rate increases.

"While most suppliers accepted this deal, Public Power refused, resulting in an investigation. During the course of the investigation, Public Power was acquired by Vistra Group," The AG's office said

Docket No. 07-06-13

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