The bill isn’t even written yet, but everyone with an interest in energy is doing their best to influence lawmakers and let them know what is and isn’t acceptable.
Independent suppliers represented by former House Speaker James Amann are the latest example of some of the efforts going on to influence what is expected to be the most sweeping energy legislation since deregulation in 1998.
At a press conference Wednesday, Kerry Brietbart, president of North American Power, tried to make sure things independent energy suppliers didn’t like about drafts of last year’s bill don’t make it into this year’s bill, which currently consists of one sentence.
Brietbart said of the 17 states which have deregulated their electricity markets, the most successful at creating competition have been those that have implemented a “purchase of receivables,” system.
This means the two largest utilities, Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating Company, retain a certain percentage of each of the bills, collect all the revenue and distribute a portion to each of the independent suppliers. The percentage retained, 0.92 percent for CL&P customers and 1.18 percent for UI customers, helps the large utilities cover the cost of the uncollectible accounts.
But the two largest utilities would like to be compensated for billing the estimated 600,000 customers that belong to the state’s independent energy suppliers.
Carlos Vazquez, senior director of government relations for UI, said the percentage the utility currently retains is not for the billing of the suppliers’ customers, it’s for the uncollectible accounts.
“We’d like them to pay their fair share,” Vazquez said.
But Brietbart said doing that would put many out of business.
He said there’s no need to double bill when the utility companies are already doing it. The transmission charges and supply charges are broken out separately on the bills.
Rep. Buddy Altobello, D-Meriden, said the utilities mandated they control the billing when legislation was passed years ago.
Forcing the suppliers to bill would ultimately limit supplier choice in the marketplace, Brietbart said. He said already the suppliers return $4 to $5 million a year to the utilities for the uncollected charges.
Vazquez said the suppliers send them a series of supply rates each year which they then have to input into their billing system in order to bill those customers. He said it’s cumbersome.
But Brietbart maintained that creating a billing system and accounts receivable department would put most independent suppliers, which offer choice in Connecticut, out of business.
Early drafts of last year’s legislation would require independent suppliers to send their own bills or allow the two large utility companies to charge the small independent suppliers for the billing. The final draft eliminated that language and maintained the current billing system.
Last year, Rep. Vickie Nardello, co-chairwoman of the Energy Committee, said the suppliers are upset because they will have to change their business model as a result of this draft legislation, but it “doesn’t end choice.”
“What other business subsidizes another business’ costs,” Nardello has said. One of the drafts last year said “They can do their own billing or pay Connecticut Light and Power to do the billing.”
Amann says they’ve already spoken to Nardello and expect to speak with her co-chairman Sen. John Fonfara later today about the issue and are fairly confident the billing practices that currently exist will remain.