At a time when electricity rates have increased and thousands have turned to third-party suppliers, a legislative report recently released by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority says its public awareness efforts are seeing some success in educating consumers about the pros and cons of going with third-party electricity suppliers.
The report also highlights the enforcement efforts of PURA’s Office of Education, Outreach, and Enforcement (EOE), which looks into the practices of suppliers and can issue a Notice of Violation (NOV) when it finds cause.
Eversource and United Illuminating have been competing with various licensed suppliers since the deregulation of Connecticut’s electric industry in 1998. Eversource and UI are known as electric distribution companies (EDCs) that provide standard service.
The EOE was established by PURA in July 2020. That office investigates complaints against suppliers, mediates disputes, and provides customer education about supplier matters.
The Authority had received 417 complaints regarding electric suppliers in 2019, a number that has now decreased to 149 in 2021.
While 2022 saw 155 complaints, “this inconsequential amount may indicate the EOE’s continuing investigations into the Connecticut market may be dissuading bad actors from participating in the Connecticut market,” the report states. “Ensuring residential customers monitor the Supply Summary on their bill remains an ongoing effort by EOE.”
Consumers have been advised to use the EnergizeCT rate board – a tool that helps residential and business electric customers compare standard service rates from Eversource and United Illuminating with those from licensed electric suppliers and registered aggregators.
According to the report, 34 suppliers were licensed in Connecticut as of Dec. 31, 2022.
Customer switches to a third-party supplier increased in 2007 through 2012, but that number has steadily decreased since 2013, according to the PURA report, although there was a slight consecutive increase in 2021 and 2022.
The report attributes this overall decrease to many factors, one being a diminishing differential between suppliers’ charged rates versus standard service rates.
As of December 2022, Eversource and UI served a total of 1.6 million customer accounts in Connecticut, with only just over 10% receiving service from a third-party supplier.
PURA can provide enforcement through the EOE to make sure companies are compliant with state regulations, PURA’s orders, and state statutes.
PURA says 15 suppliers either voluntarily relinquished their licenses or had their licenses revoked in 2022.
The report outlined several cases where PURA used its power to penalize companies for a variety of actions, including not making compliance filings on time, illegal marketing and enrollments of customers, and failing to properly train agents,
In July 2022, PURA approved EOE’s recommended settlement in several dockets, including a settlement agreement that ordered Public Power to pay $3 million to a portion of arrearages of residential customers, return all customers of Public Power, Viridian, Connecticut Gas and Electric, and Everyday Energy to standard service, and a return to standard service for Ambit customers.
Public Power, Viridian, CG&E, and Everyday Energy all permanently exited the supplier market while Ambit exited for five years.
In December 2022, PURA approved EOE’s settlement with Eligo Electric CT, LLC with regard to its enrollment and marketing practices. While the company can still service commercial customers, according to the settlement, Eligo relinquished the residential portion of its electric supplier license and paid $3 million to the EDCs to be applied to hardship arrearages.
“EOE continues to monitor supplier practices and issue interrogatories to suppliers to investigate marketing and other issues,” the report states. “EOE will escalate the results of its investigations into an NOV when warranted.”