HMS Legal Blog

Community Solar - Inching Its Way to Pennsylvania

            There have been at least two bills recently introduced in the Pennsylvania General Assembly[1] introducing a new model for expanding the deployment of solar energy production in the Keystone State.  Community Solar is not a technology but rather a business model that allows “community solar organizations” (community-based organizations or for-profit entities), to develop “Community solar facilities” (solar installations no larger than 3 MW under most circumstances) that have “subscribers”  (individuals or businesses who pay a subscription fee to receive a specified percentage of the solar output).  The subscription is transferable and provides a credit on the local electric utility bill for their subscribed portion of the output.  Legislation is required because this arrangement is not contemplated by the current renewables law, the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (“AEPS Act”), 73 P.S. §§ 1648.1, et seq., or the Electricity Generation Customer Choice and Competition Act (“Choice Act”), 66 Pa. C.S. §§ 2801, et seq.,- creating new obligations for both electric distribution companies (“EDC”) and the Public Utility Commission (“PUC”).

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PA Supreme Court Upholds Narrow Application of the Service Point Doctrine to Impose Duty to Warn of Danger on Customer Premises Where Utility Has Actual or Constructive Knowledge of Danger


In a 4-2 decision,[1] the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld a Superior Court decision overturning the trial court and denying Duquesne Light summary judgment on the issue of whether a utility has a duty to warn a customer of potential danger on the customer’s side of the service point where the utility has taken affirmative action to restore service and has actual or constructive knowledge of such danger.  Alderwoods, Inc. v. Duquesne Light Co., No. 12 WAP 2013 (Pa. December 15, 2014).  The case arose from a fire caused by an electrical panel in the basement of Alderwoods’ funeral home after Duquesne restored service to the premises by making substantial repairs to a utility pole downed by a car crash outside the funeral home.   Slip op. at 2. 

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What does the future hold for Pennsylvania’s competitive energy markets?


As the PA PUC embarks on its investigation of the natural gas markets, what evidence can we discern about how the agency sees competitive energy markets and how those markets should evolve?

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PUC To Consider Revised Labeling Requirements for Electricity Suppliers

The Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) recently issued a Tentative Order in the matter of: The Use of Fixed Price Labels for Products With a Pass-Through Clause, Docket No. M-2013-2362961 (Tentative Order entered May 23, 2013), in which it requested interested parties to comment on what it views as an emerging problem: certain Electric Generation Suppliers (“EGS”) offering products labeled as “fixed price” when the products clearly are “variable price” products.  Comments were filed June 24 and a PUC decision is expected soon.

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PUC ISSUES LONG AWAITED END-STATE ORDER

In an effort that is likely to fall short of the expectations of more than a few participants, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“Commission”) officially shared its vision of the next steps for encouraging more competitive electricity markets in the Commonwealth.

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END STATE OR JUST THE “END”

In a long anticipated Tentative Order, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) finally revealed its vision for the “end state” of the retail electricity market in Pennsylvania.  The problem; many observers believe that the “cure” will kill the patient.

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First Energy Pays Price for Being First

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) caused quite a stir with its August 16, 2012 Order[1] that partially approved the jointly filed default service plans of the four First Energy electric utility affiliates serving in Pennsylvania.


[1] Joint Petition of Metropolitan Edison Company, Pennsylvania Electric Company, Pennsylvania Power Company and West Penn Power Company for Approval of their Default Service Programs, Docket Nos. P-2011-2273650 et al.  (Order entered August 16, 2012)(“First Energy Order”) .

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PUC Denies PPL Migration Rider

Providing a win to competitive suppliers, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) at its July 19 public meeting unanimously denied PPL’s request for a migration rider for default service customers.

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Migration Riders for Electricity?

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission will now decide whether migration riders will be permitted for electricity customers, at the same time it is moving forward with its Retail Markets Investigation and its notable efforts to make the electricity markets more competitive.

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PUC Proposes Structure for Transitional Electricity Market

The PUC yesterday took a big first step toward creating an electricity market where most customers are served by competitive suppliers, and not by utilities, and unanimously voted to adopt recommendations for the next round of default service plans that will be filed by Pennsylvania’s electric utilities.

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Electricity Default Service Plans – The Next Generation

Two electric distribution companies, First Energy and PECO Energy Company, have filed their default service plans for service that will begin in 2013 – before the PUC has issued final guidance on what those plans should include.

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PUC PROPOSES RULES FOR IMPROVING COMPETITIVENESS OF ELECTRICITY MARKETS

On December 15, 2011 the PUC issued two orders designed to make Pennsylvania’s retail electricity market fully competitive. Both orders are a product of the PUC’s ongoing Investigation of Pennsylvania’s Retail Electricity Market (“RMI”), Docket No. I-2011-2237952. The first order (“RMI Final Order”) addresses the desired features of soon-to-be-filed electric utility default service plans and programs that will be implemented as part of those plans. The second order (“RMI Work Plan Order”) provides granular detail on specific components, including consumer education, accelerating of switching time frames, customer referral programs, and retail opt-in auctions.

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PUC Announces Agenda for November 10th Retail Electricity Markets Investigation Hearing

 

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Retail Markets Investigation to Bear Fruit

The first product of the PUC’s Retail Markets Investigation is expected in the form of a Tentative Order to be voted on at the PUC’s October 13, 2011 Public Meeting, and will address the Electric Distribution Company (“EDC”) Default Service Plans for June 1, 2013 and beyond.

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PUC Proposes to Amend Competitive Safeguard Regulations

In light of ongoing concerns that incumbent utilities could share customer information, link regulated services with non-competitive services, and either directly or indirectly favor affiliated generators and thereby compromise efforts to achieve a truly competitive market, the Public Utility Commission at its August 25, 2011, public meeting issued a proposed rulemaking to revise existing competitive safeguard regulations at 52 Pa. Code §§ 54.121-123, which have been in effect since July 2000.  Comments on the proposed amendments are due in mid to late October, 45 days from the date of their publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

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PUC Initiates Phase II of Competitive Retail Electricity Market Investigation

On July 28th, 2011, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission entered an Order intended to provide guidance to the PUC Staff and interested stakeholders regarding issues to be addressed in Phase II of the PUC’s Investigation into the competitiveness of Pennsylvania’s retail electric market.  The Phase II process will involve a series of technical conferences to be chaired by the PUC’s Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) as well as additional en banc hearings.

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PUC SEEKS COMMENTS ON SMART METER PROCUREMENT AND INSTALLATION ISSUES

The PUC recently issued a Tentative Order seeking comment on a number of issues involved in the implementation of the deployment of smart meter technology throughout the Commonwealth and the data transactions required to support that implementation. Smart Meter Procurement and Installation, Docket No. M-2009-2092655 (Tentative Order entered June 30, 2011).

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Commonwealth Court Upholds PUC's Approval of PPL's Poconos Transmission Line

In January 2009, PPL Electric Utilities Corp. (“PPL”) sought Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (“PUC”) approval to construct a 500kV Pennsylvania-New Jersey transmission line, part of which, subject to the issuance of appropriate permits, will run through the National Park system in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains.  The project involves modernization of an existing 230kV transmission line and the exercise of eminent domain over five parcels of land.  A PUC Administrative Law Judge issued a recommended decision granting PPL’s application on the condition that PPL not begin construction on the 230kV line prior to obtaining all approvals necessary for construction.  The PUC's final opinion and order adopted the ALJ’s recommended decision but also required that PPL inform the PUC whether it intended to defer its construction schedule and refrain from constructing a certain portion of the 230kV line until obtaining a National Park Service permit.  On reconsideration, the PUC clarified that PPL could begin construction on any other part of either line that was not subject to the National Park Service permit because to hold otherwise “would result in a significant, unacceptable delay in light of the demonstrated need for the line.”

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Commonwealth Court Upholds Commission Determination That Line Loss Costs Are Not Transmission-Related, Remands Carrying Charge Issue For Reconsideration

Last week, the en banc Commonwealth Court  upheld in Metropolitan Edison Co. v. Pa. Pub. Util. Comm’n, No. 532 C.D. 2010 (Jun. 14, 2011), the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s (“Commission”) decision in two consolidated cases in which the Commission held that “marginal transmission losses” or “line losses” are generation-related costs and are not recoverable from ratepayers under the Companies’ Transmission Service Charge Riders.  In a surprising upset for the Commission, however, the court remanded the case in-part for further consideration on whether Companies should be permitted to collect carrying charges.

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PUC en banc Hearing: A Resounding Success

The PA PUC’s recent public hearing to explore the future of the competitive electricity markets in Pennsylvania was no less than a resounding success according to Chairman Robert Powelson of the Commission.

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