United States: Preserve Retail Competition

Last Updated: August 30 2019
Article by John Shope

Proposals to eliminate competition in retail electric supply to consumers are in the air. A consultant to the Massachusetts attorney general has just published an update to a report of last year asserting that retail competition has led to nothing but losses. The report coincides with the recent filing of lawsuits alleging that competitive suppliers are committing fraud or engaged in unfair and deceptive practices because agreed prices were higher than the cost of default service. But, while certainly worth considering, the economic analysis by Susan Baldwin, a former DPU regulator, overlooks important aspects of the competitive electric supply market. The case for its elimination has yet to be made.

The report relies upon a comparison of what consumers paid on average to competitive suppliers to what they could have paid had they instead elected default service. But this analysis does not take into account the premium that low-income consumers reasonably want to pay for certainty in the electric rates, a principal feature of most market offers. By contrast, the rates for default service swing up and down. (Utilities offer "level billing," but that doesn't avoid price swing risk.) It may be that wealthier consumers can absorb such swings if they pay less overall in the long run, but consumers on fixed and/or low incomes don't have that luxury. It should therefore be no surprise that, as the report notes, lower-income consumers choose to participate in retail electric supply at a much higher rate than those with higher incomes. Electric retailers who take on wholesale price fluctuation risk by offering fixed prices are fully entitled to a premium for taking on that risk.

The supplemental report also does not take into account the fact many retail supply offerings are for "green" power explicitly at a premium to prices based on the entire generation mix, including fossil fuels. Baldwin's report of March 2018 dismissed this concern while candidly admitting a lack of data to justify doing so. It did rely on comparison of three supplier's "green" and standard offers, but without discussing what "green" meant in those cases. It also relied upon the fact that only 27% of listed offers in December 2017 had a green element, but did not calculate respective market shares and then relied upon averages that would be affected by green premiums for some buyers. It's no secret that truly green power is substantially more expensive on average, so adding even less than a quarter of green offers to averages undoubtedly increases average cost. Allowing such "green" offers is in fact a great way to help fight global warming in a politically painless way.

Baldwin's report focuses on what she believes is bad about competitive electric supply, but does not discuss so much that is clearly good. This includes the tremendous opportunity to shift electric consumption patterns to match renewable output by, for example, offering energy for free on nights and weekends when the wind is blowing but there is less demand. Another way that competitive retailers can facilitate the switch to renewables is with aggregating demand response. (For a more detailed discussion, see T. Bodell, "The Role of Retail in Renewables," Renewable Energy World (July 24, 2019).)

Regulated utilities have a long history of not innovating. They have little incentive to do so – their incentive is to build a greater infrastructure on which to earn a guaranteed rate of return. At a time when the shift to renewable energy and a necessarily more volatile grid will require creative marketing solutions to reshape consumer patterns of use, we need more market incentive for innovation, not less. Furthermore, any nostalgia for the pre-competition era of regulatory command and control would overlook the fact that, during that time, the cost of generated energy was much higher than it is today in real terms. The best form of consumer protection has always been competition, and that hasn't changed. Yes, protect the consumer from false advertising or misleading sales tactics as with any other service or good. But don't eliminate an evolving, competitive industry that will likely be critical to our renewable future.

To view Foley Hoag's Energy & Cleantech Counsel blog please click here

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Events from this Firm
30 Oct 2019, Panel, New York, United States

Energy storage will play a key role in achieving New York State’s bold climate vision, set in motion in June 2019 with the passage of The Climate Leadership and Clean Energy Protection Act, the nation-leading law which calls for economy-wide emissions reductions to reach net-zero by 2050,100% clean electricity by 2040, and 70% renewable electricity by 2030.

19 Nov 2019, Panel, Massachusetts, United States

Don’t be blindsided by risks you didn’t see coming!

Improve your awareness and understanding of your company’s key risk exposures, and learn how to mitigate and insure them:

 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions