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Regulator Expands Review Of Bill Format, Content To Include Review Of Comparison Of Retail Supplier Pricing

February 8, 2021

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Copyright 2010-21
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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The Connecticut PURA has expanded a docket (14-07-19RE06) recently opened to address issues related to the information which appears on residential electric bills and the presentation and formatting of the bills to include a statutory five year review of, "the standard billing format and Internet web site for a customer’s account summary remains a useful tool for customers to compare pricing policies and charges among suppliers."

As previously reported, PURA had re-opened Docket 14-07-19RE06 in December primarily in response to concerns about the presentation of delivery-related charges. However, as noted by at such time, the docket had previously addressed various retail supplier information (including next-month rate information) and retail supplier obligations with respect to utility consolidated bills, and the docket could address further changes with respect to retail supplier charges and obligations

In a Feb. 8 notice, PURA has now specifically included in the Docket 14-07-19RE06 the requirement under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-245d(a)(2) that, "every five years … the authority shall reopen such docket to ensure the standard billing format and Internet web site for a customer’s account summary remains a useful tool for customers to compare pricing policies and charges among suppliers."

"Therefore, this proceeding will examine whether the standard billing format and Internet web site for a customer’s account summary remains a useful tool and determine which specific modifications are warranted for implementation," PURA said

The Authority delegated the initial review of the matter to its Office of Education, Outreach, and Enforcement (EOE) pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-19j. The Authority directed EOE to file its recommendations on the following matters in the form of a proposed decision no later than September 30, 2021. At its discretion, EOE may convene a working group of interested stakeholders to advise on these matters; however, while EOE is encouraged to pursue consensus on its recommendations, consensus is not a prerequisite to the required September 30, 2021 submission.

In formulating any recommendations concerning the matter, the Authority instructed EOE and other interested stakeholders to screen potential changes through the lens of the following objectives:

1. For any billing component or line item enumerated on a monthly bill, a customer should be able to easily identify the associated cost driver (i.e. supply/generation; delivery/distribution; public policy; transmission/regional/federal);

2. All language and terms on a customer’s bill should be more accessible (i.e., more easily understood);

3. The bill should facilitate an understanding of why a line item or billing component changed, and when it is projected to change again (and why); and

4. Where feasible, on-bill education and explanations should be prioritized, with clear directions regarding how to access additional, more detailed online resources.

To facilitate the above objectives, the Authority directed EOE to examine the following issues in this proceeding:

1. Whether the information displayed in the graphs and on the front page of a customer bill requires modifications to comport with the outlined objectives;

2. Whether the general format, inclusive of categories and granularity of data, of a customer bill can be standardized between the EDCs;

3. Whether some existing line items should be bundled, and others unbundled, to strike the appropriate balance between transparency and accessibility;

4. The reclassification and associated definitions of certain electricity delivery charges into distinct categories such as, 'public policy initiatives,' 'public policy contracts,' 'energy efficiency and renewable programs,' or other appropriate terminology;

5. Development of or improvements to online digital tools for account summary, bill comparison, explanation of bill components, and customer education; and

6. Implementation timelines and costs for any proposed billing presentment modifications.

Notably with respect to retail suppliers, PURA said that, "At the sole discretion of the EOE Director, the September 30, 2021 report may explore additional topics beyond the six listed above."

PURA said that all additional topics and any associated recommendations included in the report must also be screened in accordance with the four delineated objectives above (i.e., additional topics must clearly aid in achieving one or more of the four objectives listed above).

"The delegation of this docket to EOE is intended to provide ratepayers and parties that interact with the Authority an improved customer service experience by allowing trained EOE staff to interact directly with participants. Notably, the prohibition against ex parte communications is waived between EOE staff and the public or regulated entities. Although EOE staff are prohibited from speaking on behalf of the Authority or speculating regarding the Authority’s ultimate disposition of a matter, EOE staff may use their training and expertise to answer questions and facilitate the completion of applications. However, the prohibition on ex parte communications remains in effect between EOE staff and PURA decisional staff, and between PURA decisional staff and the applicants and any other parties in this proceeding. In the event the matter requires adjudication, the EOE will be afforded all rights and obligations ascribed to Participants in the proceeding," PURA said

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