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Tag Archive: Eric Wallace

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.

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.

Retail Suppliers Petition MD Commission for Supplier Consolidated Billing

Earlier this month, five competitive retail suppliers (NRG Energy, Inc., Interstate Gas Supply, Inc., Just Energy Group, Inc., Direct Energy Services, LLC, and ENGIE Resources LLC) filed a petition electricity controlswith the Maryland Public Service Commission to implement supplier consolidated billing. If approved, the petition would allow retail suppliers to directly bill customers for both retail generation supply charges and utility distribution charges. Utility consolidated billing (where the utility bills customers for both the utility’s charges and the supplier’s charges) has been in the norm since Maryland restructured its energy market to enable retail competition.

The Maryland petition seeks to flip that model on its head. According to the petitioners, the supplier consolidated billing (“SCB”) model is a significant step in the evolution of competitive retail energy markets. In Texas, where SCB has been the standard for many years, suppliers have more flexibility to inform customers about their energy usage, develop innovative products and service structures, and adapt their customers’ bills to accommodate changes in the market. With SCB in place in Maryland, suppliers will be able to introduce new products and services that are not possible under the current utility billing model. As examples, suppliers will be able to offer flat billing options – where customers pay a set amount each month no matter how much energy they use or when they use it – and prepay service options – where customers pay in advance for their energy usage and then the energy they use counts against their account balance, with regular updates on the funds in their account and no surprise bills at the end of the month. In addition to these billing options, suppliers will be able to better inform customers about their usage and offer other energy-related products and services to Maryland customers.

Here are some quick points addressed in the SCB petition:

  • Supplier Qualifications – Suppliers must meet specific experience, operations, and financial security requirements to offer SCB services.
  • Receivables – Suppliers must purchase the full value of the utility’s receivables (for utility distribution charges) and take on responsibility for billing those amounts through to the customer.
  • Disconnect for Non-Payment – Currently, when a customer does not pay their utility bill, they will eventually have their service disconnected. With SCB, the same result would occur – with all existing customer safeguards remaining – but the supplier would initiate disconnects by notifying the utility that no payment has been received. From there, the utility would utilize existing disconnect procedures, including notifications to the customer. According to the petition, it is imperative that suppliers offering SCB services have the same tools at their disposal as to the utilities to manage their bad debt and encourage timely collections.

The Commission issued a Notice on September 15th requesting comments on the petition by November 15, 2017. If you are interested in learning more about the Maryland SCB petition or other issues affecting competitive retail energy markets in Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic jurisdictions, please contact GreeneHurlocker’s energy lawyers and regulatory attorneys.

Maryland Commission Approves 380 MW of Offshore Wind

offshore wind projectOn May 11th, the Maryland Public Service Commission approved two offshore wind projects, totaling 380 megawatts of wind capacity. Development of these offshore wind facilities is expected to create almost 9,700 new jobs. In the introduction to the order approving the projects, the Commission explains the significant environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind, positioning Maryland “to become a national leader in the burgeoning offshore wind industry.” The Commission’s order even quotes Governor Larry Hogan’s proclamation from his 2017 State of the Union Address: “Maryland is truly Open for Business.” The two developers approved to move forward with offshore wind development are U.S. Wind, Inc., and Skipjack Offshore Energy, LLC.

The Commission’s order establishes the Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Credit (OREC) price – a levelized price of $131.93 (in 2012 dollars), subject to a 1.0% price escalator. Starting in 2021, Maryland will include ORECs in its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). This means that a portion of every unit of electricity purchased in Maryland will be backed by offshore wind. The Commission’s order (at Table 2) specifies that the offshore wind component of the Maryland RPS will begin at 1.37% in 2021, decreasing to 0.60% in 2042.

This is an exciting development for the renewable energy industry in our region and we look forward to continued and expanding opportunities for companies competing in the energy industry and the customers they serve.

If you would like more information about offshore wind in Maryland or other related opportunities, please contact one of GreeneHurlocker’s energy and regulated industries lawyers.

Community Solar Growing in Mid-Atlantic

Eric Wallace explains what’s driving the increase in interest and use for community solar energy generating facilities in mid-Atlantic jurisdictions such as Maryland and the District of Columbia. For more information about community solar projects and regulation, contact Eric or any of our mid-Atlantic energy lawyers.

35th Annual National Regulatory Conference!

National Regulatory Conference logoGreeneHurlocker lawyers attended the 35th Annual National Regulatory Conference on May 18-19, 2017, in Williamsburg, Virginia. GreeneHurlocker attorneys Eric Wallace and Will Reisinger served on the conference planning committee for the past several months. This year’s agenda featured excellent speakers lined up to discuss important issues affecting utility regulation, including: (1) opportunities and obstacles for renewable energy markets; (2) the future for utilities in the capital markets; (3) the role of public-private partnerships in infrastructure development; (4) the pros and cons of subsidies; and (5) current issues in natural gas supply and production.

The attorneys of GreeneHurlocker look forward each year to the opportunity to meet new energy industry stakeholders and reconnect with industry friends and colleagues at the National Regulatory Conference – we hope to see you there! If you will not be able to attend this year and would like to learn more about the issues being discussed at the conference, or if you have any other questions regarding energy regulation in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, or elsewhere in our region, please contact one of GreeneHurlocker’s regulatory and energy attorneys.

Future of Maryland’s Energy and Distribution System

transmission towers for electricityThe Maryland Public Service Commission’s Public Conference 44 proceeding is now well underway. The purpose of this proceeding is for the Commission to seek input on the best ways to transform Maryland’s electric distribution system, advancing customer-centered, affordable, reliable, and environmentally-sustainable electric service. Stakeholder workgroups are meeting to develop proposals for the Commissions six different topic areas:

  1. Rate Design;
  2. Electric Vehicles;
  3. Competitive Markets and Customer Choice;
  4. Interconnection Process;
  5. Energy Storage; and
  6. Distribution System Planning.

We are working with retail energy clients and industry stakeholders to help develop time-of-use pilot programs, competitive retail energy options for electric vehicle owners, and utilize the more sophisticated meter data available through recently deployed smart meters. In the next few months, stakeholders will also begin meeting to develop proposals for enhancements to Maryland’s competitive retail energy markets.

We are excited to see where this proceeding will go and what new opportunities for Maryland businesses and energy consumers will result. If you are interested in learning more about Maryland’s PC44 proceeding or other developments in Maryland’s energy industry, please contact one of GreeneHurlocker’s energy and regulatory attorneys for more information.

Eric Wallace Helps Guide Undocumented Children to Lawful Residency

Children who flee the dangerous social conditions and crushing poverty of countries in Central America and Asia face another daunting challenge when they reach American soil, one with which they have no Eric Wallace at his deskexperience and for which they possess no functional skills: the United States immigration process.

Since joining GreeneHurlocker in 2014, associate Eric Wallace has given his pro bono time helping Commonwealth Catholic Charities and assisting undocumented children to navigate the path to legal residency in the United States.

“It takes a good amount of diligence to figure out the best way for these immigration cases to be addressed, diligence that can be difficult for attorney, much more so for a child who often cannot speak or read the language, and who does not understand the quirks and variables of the United States immigration system,” says Wallace.

Wallace says undocumented juveniles who are picked up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection can be connected with non-governmental agencies such as Commonwealth Catholic Charities, which then attempt to find foster families to care for the children while their cases makes their way through the courts. Many times the foster families live across the country from site where the child was taken into custody, which is why some children arrive in Virginia for placement.

The path for many of the children is lengthy.  In the cases of juveniles from volatile and unsafe backgrounds making their way to the United States, special immigrant juvenile status often affords them a path to residency. Typically, Wallace works with a social worker at Commonwealth Catholic Charities on behalf of a child, facilitating trips to the courts, working with the parents of the child, and often helping to translate for children that are only beginning to learn English.

“Over the years, we have been able to help a number of children remain in the United States and avoid the types of circumstances that originally drove them from their homes abroad,” said Wallace. These children come to the United States with no resources and no alternatives, so Wallace finds it very rewarding to be able to work with the skilled social work professionals of agencies such as Commonwealth Catholic Charities to provide these children some hope for a better future as they work their way along the complex legal path to residency.

“We applaud and whole-heartedly support the pro bono efforts of our lawyers, like Eric, who dedicate significant time, often without much fanfare, to enhance the lives of these children,” said Eric Hurlocker, co-managing member of GreeneHurlocker.

Maryland Proposes Community Solar Pilot Program Regulations

sunset-solar-squareThe proposed regulations for Maryland’s Community Solar Pilot Program were published in the Maryland Register on April 29, 2016.  Here is a link to the Community Solar Pilot Program rules as published. Under the proposed rules, customers that subscribe to a community solar energy generating system will receive full retail rate credit for their subscription up to break-even (i.e. the point where their subscribed generation matches their usage). However, credit for subscribed generation exceeding a customer’s actual usage will be limited to the supply price (transmission and distribution excluded).

The proposed program structure includes: (1) an overall cap of 1.5 percent of 2015 Maryland peak demand; (2) annual capacity caps for each of the three years of the program; (3) a per-utility cap of 1.5 percent of 2015 Maryland peak demand; (4) capacity allocations to “small,” “open,” and “Low and Moderate Income (LMI)” categories; and (5) a limit of 350 accounts per community solar energy generating system.

Comments on the proposed rules are due to the Maryland Public Service Commission by May 30, 2016. For more information about Maryland Community Solar Pilot Program, please contact one of GreeneHurlocker’s energy attorneys.

DC Changes Retail Supplier Reporting Requirements

D.C. Public Service Commission Changes Filing Requirements for Retail Electricity Supplier Semi-Annual Fuel Mix and Air Emissions Reports

Licensed retail electricity suppliers are generally required to report the fuel mix and air emissions of the energy they supply. Suppliers often have questions about the technical reporting requirements for fuel mix and emissions, including both (1) the information that must be provided and (2) the procedure for reporting that information. The lawyers of GreeneHurlocker have assisted clients with interpreting the regulatory requirements for emissions and fuel mix reports, as well as understanding how and where to file the reports, in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Delaware. Recently, as suppliers have shifted to offering more green energy and renewable energy products, some suppliers have had difficulty interpreting the nuanced disclosure requirements regarding these renewable energy products.

The D.C. Public Service Commission has even issued orders to show cause against retail suppliers that failed to meet their fuel mix and emissions reporting obligations. Some of the suppliers subject to past show cause orders missed the filing deadline, and others were unaware of the appropriate PJM system mix to include in their reports. Licensed suppliers are obligated to fulfill the applicable reporting requirements in each jurisdiction in which they operate and, as we have learned from experience in D.C., it is important that all suppliers understand the applicable reporting requirements.

In an Order issued on December 17, 2015, the D.C. Commission revised its docketing system for fuel mix reports, providing a new docket where retail suppliers will be required to file future fuel mix and air emissions reports. As retail suppliers prepare for future fuel mix and emissions filings in D.C. and Maryland, and particularly for the upcoming D.C. semi-annual fuel mix report deadline in June of 2016 under the new docket, the energy attorneys at GreeneHurlocker welcome any questions regarding these compliance matters, or any other issues relating to the retail energy sector.