Tel: 804.864.1100

Tel: 804.864.1100

Eric Wallace

Comments filed on Draft Maryland Retail Supplier Load Shaping RFP

In late March, we posted about the Maryland Public Service Commission’s request for comments on a draft “Retail Supplier Load Shaping RFP” in the Public Conference 44 proceeding. In early April, comments were filed by the Maryland Energy Administration, the Retail Energy Supply Association, Direct Energy Services, Inc., Staff of the Maryland Public Service Commission, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company/Potomac Electric Power Company/Delmarva Power & Light Company, the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel, and CleanChoice Energy, Inc.

Parties encouraged the Commission to adopt an RFP process to maximize supplier participation, protect trade secrets, provide suppliers flexibility in their load shaping pilot proposals, and allow expanded billing options to enable suppliers to bring innovative proposals to the table. Some parties specifically pointed to supplier consolidated billing and on-bill financing as important tools to pair with supplier time-of-use electricity supply offerings within the pilot. Commenting suppliers noted some key improvements to the RFP structure as compared to a prior retail supplier time-of-use pilot design. However, suppliers also recommended that the Commission add options for marketing support for the retail supplier load shaping pilot offering to help get the word out about the program and encourage customer participation.

Additional recommendations addressed promoting use of renewable energy, access to historical usage data, expanded opportunities for net metering customers, and modifications to other program criteria. Suppliers also raised concerns about certain requirements that may discourage some suppliers from submitting bids to participate in the pilot program. The Office of People’s Counsel commented on the importance of minimizing the costs to both participating and non-participating consumers, ensuring adequate consumer protections, incentives structures, billing, and other issues. All of the comments were filed on April 9, 2019, and as of this post, we are waiting for further action from the Commission in response to the comments.

If you have questions or would like more information about Maryland Retail Supplier Load Shaping RFP or other regulatory issues, please contact Eric Wallace or any of our mid-Atlantic energy lawyers.

Maryland Solar Groups Seek Community Solar Utility Consolidated Billing

On March 20th, the Climate Access Fund and Solar United Neighbors of Maryland filed a petition asking the Maryland Public Service Commission to require Maryland utilities to provide consolidated billing for subscriber organizations participating in Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program. The petitioners want utilities to include community solar subscription charges on customer bills. Today, subscriber organizations have to separately bill community solar subscribers. The stated objective of the petition is to make consolidated billing available for low and moderate income customers, helping to improve the economics of participating in the program. Two alternatives are proposed in the petition: (1) consolidated billing for all subscriber organizations or (2) consolidated billing for low and moderate income-focused community solar projects only.

We will be on the lookout for a response from the Commission and opportunities to comment on the community solar consolidated billing proposal. If you would like to review the filing, a copy of the petition is available on the Maryland Public Service Commission’s website: Mail Log # 224384.

For more information about Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program, check out our previous blog posts:

Maryland Proposes Community Solar Pilot Program Regulations
Community Solar Growing in Mid-Atlantic
Continued Progress for Community Solar in Maryland

If you have questions or would like more information about community solar projects or other regulatory issues, contact Eric Wallace or any of our mid-Atlantic energy lawyers.

MD PSC Approves Modified Electric Vehicle Portfolio

electric car iconThe Maryland Public Service Commission issued an order on January 14, 2019, approving Electric Vehicle (“EV”) Portfolio Programs for Maryland’s electric distribution utilities. The EV Portfolio Programs aim to increase EV usage in Maryland by expanding EV tariff options, furthering utility investment in EV charging infrastructure, and offering customer programs for EV owners.

The Proposed EV Portfolio Programs:

Case No. 9478 kicked off with a petition filed on January 22, 2018, by the Public Conference 44 Electric Vehicle Work Group Leader, with the support of the utilities and several other stakeholders, to implement a statewide electric vehicle proposal. The proposals for each participating utility are summarized below:

Baltimore Gas and Electric: BGE’s proposed program included installation of 18,455 EV chargers, costing $48.1 million. For residential customers, BGE proposed $9.7 million in rebate programs that could be pared with BGE’s existing “Whole-House Time-of-Use Rate” for customers with EV chargers. BGE also proposed $14.1 million in rebates and incentives, as well as a “Demand Charge Credit” program, for non-residential customers who install EV chargers for fleet use. In addition to these customer programs, BGE proposed a public network of 1,000 EV chargers, costing $17 million, and a grant program for 490 EV chargers, costing another $7.2 million.

Pepco and Delmarva: Pepco and Delmarva proposed similar programs, including a combined 3,038 EV chargers costing $41.9 million. The Pepco and Delmarva proposals also included residential rebate programs, off-peak charging credits, and expansion of Pepco’s “Whole-House Time-of-Use Rate” to Delmarva. The price tag for the Pepco and Delmarva residential programs was $5 million. For non-residential customers, Pepco and Delmarva proposed rebate and incentive programs for EV chargers, a demand charge credit program, for a combined cost of $10 million. Pepco and Delmarva also proposed installing 608 public EV chargers, costing $16.9 million. Pepco and Delmarva proposed $6.9 million in additional rebate and grant programs for installation of EV chargers. The proposed “DC Fast Charging with Energy Storage” demonstration project is aimed at minimizing adverse grid impacts from installation of fast charging stations, for another $2.8 million.

Potomac Edison: Potomac Edison also proposed rebates, incentives, public chargers, and EV tariffs, with a total of 2,259 EV chargers costing over $12.3 million.

The utilities proposed ratepayer financing for the $104.7 million investment in new infrastructure charging portfolios, meaning customers will pay for these programs through electric distribution rates or customer surcharges over a five year period. However, there are other state and local incentive programs available that may offset some of the costs for the new chargers. Some of the costs would also be recovered from charging customers that use public or non-residential chargers. As discussed below, the Commission did not approve these programs as proposed, reducing the program size and the cost to Maryland ratepayers.

The Commission’s Decision (Order No. 88997):

In its order, the Commission reduced the BGE and Potomac Edison residential rebate programs to a total of 1,000 each. The Commission also limited the rebate to $300 (compared to the proposed $500 rebate). The Commission approved the proposed Pepco and Delmarva residential rebate offerings. The Commission also approved continuation and expansion of utility “Whole-House Time-of-Use Rate” offerings for residential customers. Regarding the non-residential customer proposals, the Commission limited its approval to rebates and incentives for EV chargers installed at multi-unit or multi-tenant dwellings. The Commission also approved a limited number of rate-payer funded public charging stations: 500 for BGE, 100 for Delmarva, 250 for Pepco, and the full 59 proposed by Potomac Edison. The Commission rejected the proposed $14 million in innovation rebate and grant programs, as well as the proposed Pepco and Delmarva demonstration projects. The Commission also directed all the utilities to recover costs through traditional ratemaking in a future rate case (as proposed by BGE, Delmarva, and Pepco), rather than Potomac Edison’s upfront customer surcharge.

The next step is for the utilities to develop and submit tariff proposals to implement the EV programs approved by the Commission.

If you have any questions about the Maryland Public Service Commission’s decision on the Statewide Electric Vehicle Program or other regulatory issues, contact Eric Wallace or any of our mid-Atlantic energy lawyers.

Continued Progress for Community Solar in Maryland

Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program is moving along with dozens of solar facilities in the project queues for Baltimore Gas and Electric CompanyPepco MDDelmarva Power MD, and Potomac Edison Company. The first year of the program has seen strong interest from the Subscriber Organizations that develop and manage the solar facilities. Under the program, customers subscribe to a portion of the output of the community solar facilities, which are called Community Solar Energy Generating Systems.

Many of the solar projects entered the utilities’ production queues last summer, so they will be reaching the operational deadline under the program rules in the next few weeks, unless they request an additional six months. Several Subscriber Organizations have recently filed requests with the Maryland Public Service Commission for extensions, citing permitting delays, program delays, and other implementation challenges.

The program is a great opportunity for electricity customers – including low- and moderate income residents – to access solar energy, particularly those that rent or do not have the ability to install their own solar panels. Under the pilot program, if a community solar facility is located within your utility’s service territory, even if it is across town, you can enroll with a Subscriber Organization and purchase a portion of the energy produced by your community solar system. While subscribed to a solar facility, customers receive a bill credit each month for energy generated by the solar system. Offers from Subscriber Organizations include discounts off the utility’s standard electric rates from around 5%-10%.

Customers won’t actually get their household energy directly from solar panels, but their payments will help finance solar facilities that place electricity onto the grid. So far, the Commission has approved six projects across Maryland and we anticipate that more will be approved within the next few years. Statewide, the General Assembly authorized bout 200 MWs to be built under the pilot program which could power about 40,000 households.

As with any new program, some implementation challenges are to be expected as the program gets off the ground. However, we are optimistic that Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program will be a success, enabling more and more customers are able to access solar energy.

If you would like more information about the program’s background, we have been tracking the Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program since its inception and the development of the program regulations back in April of 2016 (check out our previous post here). We also did a video about Community Solar in the mid-Atlantic region last Spring.

If you have questions or would like more information about community solar projects or other regulatory issues, contact Eric Wallace or any of our mid-Atlantic energy lawyers.

What’s the Latest on Supplier Consolidated Billing?

transmission towers for electricityWe have blogged previously about a petition filed at the Maryland Public Service Commission by five electric and natural gas retail suppliers seeking implementation of supplier consolidated billing (SCB). We did a video about it when the petition was filed, and our last blog on this topic was in February 2018, just after the legislative-style hearing concluded in Baltimore.

In the blog, you’ll see that we summarized the events at the hearing and even provided a picture of the four supplier witnesses testifying before the Commission, along with Brian Greene of our firm, so that everyone could get a feel for what it’s like to appear before the Commission (from the view of the Commissioners, no less!).

So what happened in the case since then, you ask?

In May 2018, the Commission issued this Notice of Briefing Schedule, requesting comments primarily on the legal issue of whether Maryland statutes allow a supplier utilizing SCB to initiate the disconnect process if the customer does not pay. Parties, including the petitioners, submitted comments on June 14 and June 28. We are now awaiting a Commission order or further guidance.

There’s also an SCB proceeding pending at the Pennsylvania Commission. On June 14, 2018, the Commission held a legislative-style hearing that will continue on July 12, 2018. You can get more info on the Pennsylvania proceeding here.  Delaware is also moving towards an SCB proceeding, with a recent Hearing Examiner’s report in Docket No. 15-1693 recommending approval of a Stipulated Order that calls for a new docket to be opened now to address whether SCB is permitted in and should be adopted in Delaware.

If you have questions about SCB or electric or natural gas retail service in general, please contact one of GreeneHurlocker’s energy and regulatory lawyers.

Solar and Wind Take Center Stage at the 2018 Virginia Energy Conference

wind turbines and solar arraysRenewable energy development, driven by rising corporate demand, was a central theme of Wednesday’s 2018 Virginia Energy Conference, hosted by the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Garret Bean, Vice President of Development for sPower and one of the keynote speakers at the conference, discussed his company’s proposed 500-megawatt facility in Spotsylvania County, which will serve corporate customers in Virginia. Microsoft announced that it will purchase 315 MW of energy from sPower’s 500 MW project as part of its sustainability goal of 60 percent renewable energy by early 2020. In addition to Microsoft, major global companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, and Walmart have joined together to commit to 100% renewable power as a part of the RE100 initiative.

In his keynote, Bean explained that rapid data center development in Virginia, sustaining 70 percent of the world’s internet traffic, coupled with customer demand for cloud services powered by clean energy sources, presents a significant opportunity for growth in Virginia’s renewable energy sector. However, with the growth of renewable energy, developers are facing siting, permitting, and interconnection challenges that will have to be overcome.

Delegate Terry Kilgore, Senator Frank Wagner, and Secretary of Natural Resources Matt Strickler also discussed the opportunities and challenges of Virginia’s renewable energy industry. Senator Wagner voiced concerns about Virginia’s proposed regulations to link to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and participate in its regional greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade program. However, with the passage of SB 966 this session, paving the way for 5,000 megawatts of solar and wind energy in Virginia, and Governor Northam’s announcement that the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has posted a Request for Proposals for contracts to help strengthen Virginia’s offshore wind supply chain and service industry, the future for Virginia’s renewable energy industry is looking bright.

If you have questions about Virginia’s renewable energy industry, legislation, or regulatory structure, please contact one of GreeneHurlocker’s energy and regulatory lawyers.

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements

U.S. Supreme Court building.

U.S. Supreme Court building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a decision that could bode well for competitive retail energy suppliers, the U.S. Supreme Court on May 21, 2018 upheld employers’ arbitration agreements containing class action waivers. In a 5-4 opinion by Justice Gorsuch in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, the Court deemed the arbitration provisions enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. § 2 et seq., which requires courts to enforce an arbitration agreement unless there are grounds to refuse to enforce it under the Act’s savings clause (e.g. fraud, duress, or unconscionability).

In Epic Systems Corp., the employees challenging the arbitration agreements argued that mandated individualized proceedings (i.e. class action waivers) conflicted with language in the National Labor Relations Act, rendering the agreements unenforceable. The Court rejected the employees’ arguments, holding: “Congress has instructed in the Arbitration Act that arbitration agreements providing for individualized proceedings must be enforced, and neither the Arbitration Act’s saving clause nor the NLRA suggests otherwise.”

While this case involved employment contracts rather than retail energy supply contracts, the Court’s precedent upholding arbitration agreements with class action waivers is a good sign for retail energy suppliers concerned about potential class action claims.

If you have questions or would like to learn more issues to consider when preparing retail energy supply contracts, please contact one of GreeneHurlocker’s energy and regulatory lawyers.

Update on Supplier Consolidated Billing in Maryland

Maryland State House (side)

Maryland State House (side) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last fall, Brian Greene discussed the Maryland Public Service Commission’s retail energy supplier consolidated billing proceeding. The Commission is considering supplier consolidated billing as an additional billing option for Maryland customers, alongside the existing utility consolidated billing and dual billing options. With supplier consolidated billing, customers would receive a single bill from their competitive retail supplier that includes both the electricity and natural gas supply charges (from the competitive supplier) and the utility’s transportation and distribution charges.

Under the existing billing paradigm in Maryland, the vast majority of customers receive a consolidated bill from their utility that includes both the energy supply charges and the utility’s transportation and distribution charges. Supplier consolidated billing would flip that model, enabling the competitive supplier to bill the customer, with the flexibility to expand product and service offerings. More information on the details of the proposal are available in the Petition and Reply Comments filed by the petitioning retail energy suppliers (NRG Energy, Inc., Interstate Gas Supply, Inc., Just Energy Group, Inc., Direct Energy Services, LLC, and ENGIE Resources, LLC).

In November 2017, stakeholders submitted extensive comments discussing the benefits and potential risks associated with the supplier consolidated billing proposal. Copies of the comments are publicly available in the Commission’s docket for Case No. 9461.

Following submission of the written comments, the Commission held a legislative-style hearing on February 20th and 21st. Here is a short summary of the two-day hearing:

  • The hearing began with a presentation from the Petitioners in support of supplier consolidated billing. The panel presented and answered questions from the Commissioner for about 2.5 hours.
  • Maryland’s distribution utility stakeholders followed the Petitioners, presenting their views on SCB and responding to the Petitioners’ presentation.
  • Following the utilities, a competitive retail energy supplier panel offered support for SCB, with some offering tweaks to the proposed program.
  • The next panel included public sector stakeholders from the Maryland Energy Administration and Montgomery County offering support for the proposed supplier consolidated billing program and suggestions regarding some of the program details. The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel also presented, discussing what it perceives as potential risks of the program.
  • Commission Staff rounded out the presentations, discussing the merits of the SCB proposal, offering support for the concept and at least one recommendation to alter the proposal.
  • The hearing concluded with the Petitioners offering a few final comments responding to some of the points raised by other stakeholders during the hearing.

After concluding the hearing, the next step is for the Commission to take further action on the proposal. If you are interested in the pending SCB petition in Maryland or any related competitive retail energy market issues, please contact one of GreeneHurlocker’s mid-Atlantic energy lawyers.

Appearing at the MPSC Hearing: From L to R – Brian Greene, Mike Starck (NRG Energy), Duncan Stiles (Just Energy), Tami Wilson (IGS Energy), and Alex Donaho (Direct Energy).

Energy Secretary Perry Concerned With Grid Resiliency

Eric Wallace covers the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) sent by Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in regard to grid resiliency.