Is a single bill with supplier’s and utility’s charges coming your way?
Consumers can hold in the palm of their hand technology that enables them to find a cheaper electricity supplier. the can switch, monitor their usage, and even pay bills right from their phones. Some forward thinking industry players are wondering why should local utilities even be involved at all? Why not let customers deal directly with the electricity suppliers and all the switches and meter consumption data be handled by PJM, the company that runs the entire midAtlantic grid?
For some time now, there’s been growing interest in this notion of Supplier Consolidated Billing (SCB). Proponents argue that because local utilities like PECO in Philadelphia don’t compete they are more prone to act as roadblocks to what are essentially business transactions. Customers sign up for a plan electronically, they have smart meters that can be regulated and monitored for usage electronically, and they pay for their usage electronically. So, with all this technology, why do many customers who have switched to an electricity supplier still have to get a bill from their local utility? Why can’t competitive suppliers compile all fees and send customers a single, consolidated bill containing both their supplier’s charge and the utility’s distribution charge?
Why not, indeed? In fact, this last December, NRG Energy petitioned the PA PUC to implement SCB as a billing option to consumers of electric generation suppliers by the second quarter of 2018.
Can Electricity Suppliers Do A Better Job?
The local utilities’ deregulated role in Pennsylvania was initially set up so that they could act as gatekeepers to protect customers from slamming and other abuses of unscrupulous retail electricity suppliers. According to Pennsylvania law, it is the utilities that are charged to offer adequate, efficient, safe, and reliable service —as well as make sure service disconnections occur only after proper notice. Competitive electricity suppliers in Pennsylvania aren’t burdened with those responsibilities and as far as service disconnections go, they can only submit a request to the utility.
Not surprisingly, the PUC recently said “NO” to NRG’s petition in a Joint Motion. But it was a rejection with a big asterisk.
As SCB isn’t a new concept before the PUC, it wants to explore it further — especially since it’s never been established whether SCB would be legal according to the law that governs PA Energy Choice: Chapter 14 and Chapter 28 of the Public Utility Code.
The PUC’s Office of Competitive Market Oversight will hold a hearing on or before June 14 for comments on SCB and other alternatives.