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Electric/Gas Convergence, Meter-to-Meter

Fortnightly Magazine - May 1 1997

what will matter in restructured markets (em along with the meter head.

"Ninety-eight percent of any business other than its hard assets lies in its customer relationships," he says. "And in the present format ... dealing with the customers whose primary relationship is one of vendor-vendee sale of service or goods, there's a preexisting relationship. And that preexisting relationship is based upon a massive billing and computer base. The access to these customers at the billing relationship is absolutely, positively everything." t

Joseph F. Schuler, Jr. is associate editor of PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY.

E-mail: schuler@pur.com

Who Bills the Customer?

Excerpts from the ALJ's Proposed Decision

"[M]any interested parties have urged this Commission to allow competitive firms to provide their own consolidated billing, metering and other related services."

PG&E proposes ... three billing options:

1. Consolidated Supplier Billing (em distribution company would bill the energy supplier. Supplier in turn would provide a consolidated bill;

2. Consolidated Distribution Company Billing (em distribution company would place the supplier's energy charge on a distribution bill; or

3. Dual Billing (em the energy supplier and the distribution company would bill separately for their own services.

... or two metering options:

1. System-Wide AMR (em distribution company would retrofit almost all existing meters to allow for remote [automated] meter reading through radio transmission. The distribution company would have the sole right to install, calibrate and maintain the meter and would be allowed to recover the implementation costs from its ratepayers; or

2. Customer Choice (em competitive suppliers could furnish, for their customers, any meter technology meeting the utility's standards, so long as the utility would maintain the sole right to install, calibrate and maintain the meter to ensure that the utility's standards for safety, reliability and accuracy were met. This meter would replace the existing utility meter.

The SDG&E Model:

"[R]ecommends that the Commission not order the broad implementation of AMR technology, arguing that it would be too expensive, would limit entry of competitive suppliers and would limit technological innovation."

The Edison Model:

"[A]grees with PG&E, SDG&E ... that energy suppliers should be allowed to provide consolidated billing. In addition, Edison argues that it is acceptable for an energy supplier to install an additional meter in order to measure its sales and provide value-added services. However, Edison proposes keeping its own meter in place even where an energy supplier chooses to install one. ...

"[A]rgues that any savings it would face if the energy supplier provides billing or other related services would be insignificant, but that it would be unlawful to reduce a customer's distribution charges even though these services are avoided by the utility. ...

"[P]roposes adding AMR technology to the meters of 85% of its customers and charging its future distribution customers for the resulting net cost. Edison argues that this would be the fastest and cheapest way of making hourly pricing available to all customers."

The ALJ's Recommendation:

"In this decision, we conclude that competing energy service providers should be allowed to present consolidated bills that reflect the full cost of electricity and to provide