PSC Provides Guidance That Municipal Aggregation (& CCA Supplier) Won't Be Subject To Low-Income Customer Rate Cap Applicable To Retail Suppliers
"Not Fair," PSC Chair Says
PSC Discusses Advertising Limits, Offers Guidance On Opt-outs
June 1, 2023 Email This Story Copyright 2010-23 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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During a Maryland PSC rulemaking session concerning creating rules for the community choice aggregation (CCA) pilot, the PSC provided guidance to a workgroup on several key disputed issues, after it became clear there were still too many remaining disputes to go through the regulations for final adoption, as originally intended by the PSC today
Statute authorizes Montgomery County to conduct a CCA pilot
The PSC's guidance did not take the form of a formal vote or adoption, but was rather guidance directing the workgroup on what to bring back to the Commission for consideration
Most notably, three Commissioners, of the four who were conducting the session, agreed that the prohibition on retail suppliers serving energy assistance customers, unless the supplier has a PSC-approved offer that is lower than SOS, does not apply to CCAs or a retail supplier serving as the CCA's supplier (in that supplier's capacity as the CCA supplier)
PSC Chairman Jason Stanek, who called the issue a difficult one, said that such different treatment was "not fair", but said that legislative text in the respective CCA and energy assistance prohibition statutes slightly tips the scale in favor of an interpretation which does not bind CCA suppliers to the low-income rate cap
Commissioners Michael Richard and Odogwu Obi Linton agreed that the energy assistance prohibition does not apply to the CCA or CCA's retail supplier
Commissioner Anthony O'Donnell believes that the energy assistance prohibition and rate cap should apply to the CCA's retail supplier
O'Donnell called it "perplexing" that the Office of People's Counsel, which has criticized supplier rates to low-income customers, does not support a regulation requiring the CCA supplier's rate to not exceed the SOS rate, for energy assistance customers. OPC said during the rulemaking that while it supports, as a policy, such a rate cap for low-income CCA customers, and hopes to see such a rate in Montgomery County's eventual CCA filing, OPC does not believe the energy assistance customer prohibition statute applies to CCAs and thus does not support a regulation to that effect
During the discussion, O'Donnell ensured that all Commissioners agreed that their directives today on this issue (as on all issues) were guidance and not a formal vote. As noted, only four Commissioners heard today's rulemaking
Stanek noted that the composition of the Commission has recently changed, and will continue to change in the future.
New Commissioner Kumar Barve, who returns the PSC to five Commissioners, was sworn in on May 31 but did not hear today's rulemaking session. Stanek's five-year term ends on June 30, 2023. While not scheduled yet, the next rulemaking session is expected to be no earlier than after June 30.
With regards to customers' ability to opt-out, the Commission directed that customers shall be able to provide an opt-out in response to an initial "formation" notice required to be sent by the county as the CCA is developed, in addition to being able to opt-out in response to a separate, specific opt-out notice. The formation notice will not include specific rates and will precede the filing of the CCA's aggregation plan at the PSC
Concerning informational versus promotional advertisements by a CCA, a majority of Commissioners did not endorse a specific guidance
Stanek said that, for the CCA's basic product, there should not be additional restrictions on promotional advertisements, versus informational advertisements
However, Stanek said that, for advertisements of any premium offering, beyond the default CCA product, there should be more restrictions or regulations for advertisements which are promotional in nature (and not informational), in order to maintain a level playing field in the competitive market. O'Donnell generally aligned with Stanek on this point
Richard and Linton would not restrict promotional advertising by a CCA
Concerning costs arising from the CCA which could potentially harm other customers (such as due to SOS cost premiums), the PSC directed the workgroup to come up with a way to hold all customers in other counties harmless from incremental costs due to the Montgomery County CCA
During the session, Stanek said that customers in other counties shouldn't pay costs arising from the Montgomery County CCA. O'Donnell likewise emphasized this point during the session.