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Utilities Will Seek To Increase Awareness Of Default Service Time-Varying Rate Options For Non-Shopping Customers

Settlement In Grid Modernization Proceeding Includes Smart Thermostat Rebate Program Open To Retail Suppliers

April 15, 2024

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Copyright 2010-24
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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Several major parties in the grid modernization proceeding (Grid Mod II) of the FirstEnergy Ohio utilities have filed a settlement under which the utilities would seek to increase awareness of EDC-offered time-varying generation rates for non-shopping customers.

As further described below, the stipulation also includes a smart thermostat rebate program open to retail suppliers, while also addressing other retail market issues, including access to customer data

The stipulation was signed by, among other parties, the FirstEnergy Ohio EDCs, Interstate Gas Supply, the Retail Energy Supply Association, Ohio Energy Leadership Council, Ohio Energy Group, NOPEC, Citizens Utility Board of Ohio, and certain other large customers as well as environmental groups. Staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and the Ohio Consumers; Counsel do not appear as signatory parties to the stipulation

Time-Varying Rates

Under the stipulation, the FirstEnergy EDCs, "will make efforts to try and increase awareness and understanding of their time-varying rate options for eligible residential and nonresidential SSO customers."

The settlement provides that the utilities will continue working with the Grid Mod Collaborative to, "evaluate and consider potential enhancements to the design and marketing plans for their time-varying rates for SSO customers."

More specifically, the stipulation provides that, "In the first year of Grid Mod II, the Companies commit to work with the Grid Mod Collaborative to develop a plan to provide customers with information to better compare TVR and SSO rates."

Costs associated with the marketing of the Companies’ SSO time-varying rate, "will continue to be recovered through a bypassable charge," the settlement states

Notably, the stipulation provides that, once there are either (a) at least three retail suppliers offering products utilizing AMI data or (b) at least three different types of time-varying products utilizing AMI data, then the utilities, with PUCO approval, will withdraw their SSO time-varying rate offering.

The stipulation further provides that, during the period that the EDCs are offering the SSO time-varying rate, they will not utilize customers’ AMI data to market the SSO time-varying rate to customers, including through new Customer Energy Management (CEM) Reports which will be developed under Grid Mod II

However, upon PUCO approval of the withdrawal of the utilities’ SSO time-varying rate offering, the EDCs may utilize customer AMI data, including through the CEM reports, to notify customers that they may benefit from a time of use offering and to direct those customers to PUCO's "Apples to Apples" shopping website, which lists offers from competitive retail suppliers

The stipulation further provides that, effective with the first summer following approval of Grid Mod II, the EDCs are no longer required to offer Rider RCP (Residential Critical Peak Pricing Rider) to customers in the CEI [Cleveland Electric Illuminating] Pilot area.

Smart Thermostat Rebates

The stipulation provides that, during the term of Grid Mod II, the EDCs shall budget $3 million per year for a Smart Thermostat Rebate (STR) program

The utilities are targeting STR program participation of at least 16,000 customers per year.

The STR rebates shall be available to:

a. Low Income Residential Customers - Customers who are at or below 300% of the federal poverty level will be eligible for a rebate for the purchase of a new, qualifying smart thermostat. This rebate shall not exceed the lesser of the total purchase cost or $150 per qualifying smart thermostat.

b. All Other Residential Customers - All other residential customers who are (1) on the EDCs' or a competitive retail provider’s time-varying rate option, or (2) participating or enrolling to participate in a demand response program [see note] will be eligible for a rebate for the purchase of a new, qualifying smart thermostat. The maximum rebate to these customers shall not exceed the lesser of the total purchase cost or $100 per qualifying smart thermostat

Note: The stipulation notes that, as reflected by IGS and RESA in Case No. 23-301-EL-SSO, IGS and RESA do not support the demand response program proposal and the Grid Mod II Stipulation does not impact or alter parties’ litigation position in that case. But, IGS and RESA agree to the adoption of the relevant provisions included in the Grid Mod II Stipulation as part of the Grid Mod II Stipulation package.

The stipulation provides that the utilities will allow retail suppliers to help facilitate the provision of qualifying smart thermostats to customers. Retail suppliers will be required to comply with all program requirements and processes.

Under the settlement, in signing up participating retail supplier customers, a retail supplier must: (1) provide an account number or SDI so that the EDCs can verify that customer’s identity as a customer with an active EDC account that is not previously associated with a smart thermostat rebate under the program, and (2) provide make, model, serial number, and any other required information of the installed smart thermostat that qualifies under the EDCs’ program.

"As part of the initial enrollment process, the CRES [competitive retail electric service provider] will acquire affirmative consent for enrollment and provide that affirmative consent to the Companies [FirstEnergy Ohio EDCs]," the settlement states

Furthermore, the stipulation states, "If the customer consents, the rebate can be provided to the CRES provider."

Customer Data Access

Currently, PUCO-certified retail suppliers may access residential customer hourly interval data, without cost, on the EDCs’ Supplier Portal through Single User-Multiple Request (SU-MR), which requires customer authorization pursuant to Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-10-24(E)(3). SU-MR will remain unchanged and available to PUCO-certified retail providers in Grid Mod II.

However, concerning Residential Hourly Interval Data, the stipulation also provides concerning retail supplier data access (specifically for retail electric generation providers, or, in other words, LSEs)

a. Upon PUCO approval, the EDCs will undertake IT system changes and initiate the PUCO EDI Working Group changes needed to make available to PUCO-certified retail electric generation providers the hourly interval data for their enrolled residential customers as follows:

i. Supplier Portal: System-to-System Historical Interval Usage (StS-HIU), and System-to-System Rolling 10-Day (StS-Rolling 10 day).

ii. EDI: Residential Interval Usage (867IU).

iii. The interval data available to retail suppliers shall include all interval data utilized by PJM to assign costs to retail suppliers for billing to shopping customers.

iv. The interval data shall be provided to retail suppliers without cost.

The stipulation notes that, "In accordance with the Commission-approved settlement in Grid Mod I, Case Nos. 16-481-EL-UNC, et al., the Companies [FirstEnergy Ohio EDCs] have undertaken the steps necessary to utilize residential customer interval data for wholesale market settlements including calculating and settling the hourly energy load obligation and calculating Peak Load Contribution ('PLC'). That settlement provided further that 'The THEO, PLC, and NSPL data will be made available to authorized CRES [competitive retail electric service] providers, consistent with 4901:1-10-24 of the Ohio Administrative Code, through the pre-enrollment list and electronic data interchange ('EDI') transactions, as applicable.'"

The stipulation provides that, "The Signatory Parties agree that because the Companies [FirstEnergy Ohio EDCs] are now utilizing residential customer hourly interval data such that PJM can assign monthly energy costs to CRES [competitive retail electric service] to be billed monthly to residential customers, that hourly interval data for residential customers with an AMI meter is being utilized for billing purposes for all shopping residential customers with an AMI meter, within the meaning of Rule 4901:1-10-24. As such, the Signatory Parties agree that the Companies shall be permitted to disclose and CRES providers shall be entitled to access the hourly interval data for CRES providers’ enrolled residential customers using StS-HIU, StS-Rolling 10 day, and/or EDI 867IU without needing to undertake additional steps, such as providing customer authorization to the Companies."

"The Signatory Parties agree further that if the Commission disagrees with the conclusion that the hourly interval data is being utilized for billing purposes that the Signatory Parties request the Commission waive the consent requirement in Rule 4901:1-10-24(E)(3) for StS-HIU, StSRolling 10 day, and/or EDI 867IU," the stipulation provides

The stipulation also provides for a process for NOPEC to receive hourly interval data for its aggregated customers through StS-HIU, StS-Rolling 10 day, and/or EDI 867HIU

The settlement states, "The Companies and NOPEC will use best efforts to cooperate and communicate with each other to allow data requests from NOPEC to be processed without adversely impacting the performance of the Companies’ [FirstEnergy Ohio EDCs] systems or the transaction of business between the Companies and PUCO-certified retail electric generation providers. The Companies [FirstEnergy Ohio EDCs] may temporarily restrict data access when necessary due to high volumes, system limitations, and/or to address system usage by PUCO-certified CRES that are retail electric generation providers."

Addressing another customer data issue, the stipulation provides that, subject to Commission Rules and resolution of certain issues to be discussed in a collaborative, the utilities will provide retail customer data to retail suppliers, governmental aggregators, and third-party aggregators (such as Curtailment Service Providers and Distributed Energy Resource aggregators) to allow them to enroll any customers and participate in the PJM markets, including but not limited to ancillary service markets and demand response programs.

A collaborative will address the following concerning the provision of data to allow participation in PJM markets:

a. what data may be available

b. the mechanics of how the data will be disseminated

c. responsibilities of parties to maintain customer consent records, and obligations of parties to meet customer protection laws and regulations

d. the mechanism to document such responsibilities and performance requirements (e.g., a tariff, contract, etc.).

Other Issues

Under the stipulation, the EDCs shall withdraw a managed EV charging pilot

The settlement also provides that the utilities shall withdraw a front-of-the-meter battery energy storage system pilot.

Concerning AMI, the settlement provides, "The Companies [FirstEnergy Ohio EDCs] will install the remaining estimated 1.4 million advanced meters, along with the necessary supporting communications infrastructure, and will expand the existing meter data management system and associated systems and processes."

Case No. 22-0704-EL-UNC et al.


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