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Commission Watch

State regulators redouble their deregulation efforts-or abandon them altogether.
Fortnightly Magazine - January 15 2003

PUC, the electric utility found itself in a unique position on Jan. 1, 2001, when it was the only entity in the market with uncommitted capacity resources. The utility wasted no time taking advantage of the situation by demanding capacity auction prices equal to the full penalty rate, the PUC said. It found that PPL had gained its advantage by increasing exports of power at a time when the total capacity obligation of the system was rising.

The PUC complained that PPL's gaming of the wholesale market system at a time that it possessed monopoly power had damaged its competitors and undermined the public's confidence in the competitive market, as evinced by a significant decline in the retail shopping and new supplier market participation in Pennsylvania.

In a case related to these events, the PUC later in the year issued an emergency order directing New Power Co., a bankrupt power supplier and former Enron affiliate, to rescind previously issued "make-up bills" for charges purportedly owed by customers after the supplier left the state retail choice market. The PUC said that all of the bills covered the same July 1, 2002, through Aug. 1, 2002, billing period but inexplicably contained the same usage figure of 603 kWh, and contained no meter reading information.

The PUC said that the competitive supplier had failed to respond to its inquiries. It concluded, "We are left with the appearances and must conclude that bills issued for a period during which the company was not in business, which are not based on actual meter readings, and which list the same usage for disparate customers, points to a probability of fraud on the public which this Commission cannot disregard."

Faced with a situation where many customers might respond to the billing with its upcoming payment due date of September 2002, the commission on Aug. 28 issued an emergency directive requiring New Power to issue a notice to the 13,000 affected customers, and to issue refunds to those who had already made payment. [Re New Power Co., Docket No. M-00021632, Aug. 28, 2002 (Pa.P.U.C.).]

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