The Public Utility Commission Thursday directed its Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) to move forward with an investigation into Pennsylvania’s retail gas market as well as seek comments on issues related to its investigation.
“I am excited by the potential for this investigation to bring real change to the Commonwealth’s retail natural gas market and I believe OCMO has provided us with a path forward to properly vet the issues,” said PUC Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer in a statement “The Order before us today provides a structured framework to bring our natural gas retail market to the next level, an effort I am certain will proceed with all deliberate speed.”
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the Final Order that directs OCMO to examine several specific issues involving retail gas competition. OCMO is further directed to form working groups composed of Natural Gas Distribution Companies (NGDCs), Natural Gas Suppliers (NGSs) and other interested parties to investigate potential changes or standardization of the use of capacity and storage assets; issues regarding system balance, tolerances and penalties; amendments to creditworthiness requirements; and issues regarding nondiscrimination in access points on distribution systems.
The PUC also seeks additional comments on specific topics including NGS supplier disclosure statements and supplier-related elements that would be appropriate for inclusion on a joint NGDC-NGS bill. More information on how to submit comments is available in the Final Order.
On Aug. 21, 2014, the PUC approved a Tentative Order that finds an investigation into the retail natural gas market is necessary and also outlines several issues for OCMO to examine in the course of this investigation into Pennsylvania’s retail gas market. Comments were received on the following issues:
• Assignment of capacity and use of storage assets
• Non-discrimination in access points on NGDC systems
• System balance, tolerances and penalties
• Creditworthiness requirements
• Seamless moves and instant connects for consumers
• Accelerated switching timeframes for consumers
• Low-income customer shopping
• Enhancements to www.PAGasSwitch.com
• Expanded consumer education about shopping
• Purchase of receivables programs
• Disclosure requirements
• Joint NGDC – NGS bill
• Account number access mechanisms
• Migration riders
• Electronic data protocols
This latest action builds on comments received in response to a Sept. 12, 2013 joint motion by PUC Commissioners Pamela A. Witmer and James H. Cawley and a corresponding Order that initiated the investigation into the retail natural gas markets. The goal of the investigation is to improve the competitiveness of the retail natural gas market.
In the October 2005 Report to the General Assembly on Pennsylvania’s Retail Natural Gas Supply Market, the PUC determined that effective competition did not exist in Pennsylvania’s retail natural gas market. As a result, the Commission was required by law to convene a natural gas stakeholders working group to explore avenues, including legislative, in order to encourage increased competition in the Commonwealth.
The PUC has implemented a number of changes in an attempt to enhance retail gas competition as a result of that proceeding, including completed rulemakings regarding NGDC cost recovery and rates and NGS licensing.For more information, visit the PUC’s Retail Markets Investigation-Natural Gas webpage.