Group raps util­i­ties’ fee plan

State com­mis­sion asked to turn down plan to charge cus­tomers for data

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Wil­liam J. Kem­ble news@free­manon­

State Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion mem­bers are be­ing asked to turn down a re­quest by elec­tric util­i­ties to charge up to $2.70 per cus­tomer for in­for­ma­tion sought by com­mu­ni­ties when es­tab­lish­ing bulk power buy­ing pro­grams.

Cit­i­zens for Lo­cal Power spokes­woman Jen­nifer Met­zger on Fri­day said the state or­der this week did give util­i­ties some con­ces­sions on the amount of de­tail that needs to be pro­vided about cus­tomers. How­ever, the mod­i­fi­ca­tions of an April or­der did not cover costs for in­for­ma­tion when a Com­mu­nity Choice Ag­gre­ga­tion pro­gram is be­ing de­vel­oped.

“Ob­vi­ously the util­i­ties are go­ing to be in­volved in a CCA,” she said. “They have data that the CCAs need ... about en­ergy de­mand.”

In a re­quest to have the com­mis­sion es­tab­lish per­cus­tomer fees for pro­vid­ing data, Cen­tral Hud­son is seek­ing $1.35 for an ini­tial list and $1 for monthly up­dates; Or­ange and Rock­land as well as Con Edi­son wants $2.70 and $1.50; and Ni­a­gra Mo­hawk is seek­ing $1.08 for both ini­tial list and monthly up­dates.

“They are all ex­traor­di­nar­ily in­flated and un­rea­son­ably

high,” Met­zger said. “It has no di­rect bear­ing on the ac­tual cost to the util­i­ties on pro­vid­ing that data.”

Cen­tral Hud­son spokesman John Maser­jian said the pro­posed fees are based in cal­cu­lated costs of time and per­son­nel to de­vel­oped var­i­ous lists from the util­ity’s 308,000 elec­tric cus­tomers.

“They are based on the ac­tual cost for sep­a­rat­ing that in­for­ma­tion for a mu­nic­i­pal­ity or ge­o­graphic area and place them in a for­mat the ag­gre­ga­tion can use and then de­liv­er­ing that in­for­ma­tion to the ag­gre­ga­tion,” he said.

Un­der the or­der that was mod­i­fied dur­ing a com­mis­sion meet­ing Thurs­day,

util­i­ties will be able to with­hold cus­tomer phone num­bers. Be­cause the rul­ing re­quires all cus­tomers in a pro­gram area be in­cluded in com­mu­nity ag­gre­ga­tion the lack of phone num­bers will re­duce the ways they can be con­tacted about their rights to opt out.

“I do think (not hav­ing phone num­bers) is prob­lem­atic,” Met­zger said. “I think that com­mu­nity choice ag­gre­ga­tion should have the data that the util­i­ties have. They are serv­ing cus­tomers.”

Cit­i­zens for Lo­cal Power, in pa­pers filed with the com­mis­sion, con­tends that the cost to the util­i­ties is the same re­gard­less of the num­ber of records be­ing sought.

“The CCA or­der re­quires com­pa­nies to pro­vide very ba­sic data that is al­ready in their sys­tems and whether they pro­duce a data set of 500 records or 5,000 records should make lit­tle dif­fer­ence in terms of cost,” the group wrote.

The com­mis­sion or­der also al­lows util­i­ties to with­hold in­for­ma­tion on the eco­nomic sta­tus of a cus­tomer.

“The eco­nomic sta­tus was a lit­tle bit com­pli­cated but I think it’s kind of ir­rel­e­vant at this point,” Met­zger said. “The orig­i­nal or­der con­tained what we found to be an odd pro­vi­sion that al­low CCAs to ex­clude cus­tomers that were on util­ity as­sis­tance pro­grams.”

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