PowerForward: Ratemaking and Regulation to be held in March 2018
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) wants to inform Ohioans that the third phase of PowerForward, titled "Ratemaking and Regulation," will be a two-week event in March 2018. The first week will take place March 6-8, followed by the second week March 20-22. Sign up for email updates on the PowerForward page at www.PUCO.ohio.gov to stay up-to-date on any new developments.
Phase 3 will focus on how ratemaking and regulation from the PUCO and state of Ohio can help to make the future electric distribution grid a reality and bring about the many changes discussed in the first two phases of PowerForward.
Phase 1 and 2 of PowerForward, respectively titled "A Glimpse of the Future" and "Exploring Technologies," provided the Commission with a great deal of information on the future of Ohio's electric distribution grid and much to think about in the longer period between second and third phase of PowerForward.
"Creating the appropriate marketplace, which will undoubtedly involve what we typically do here, which is regulation, ratemaking, cost recovery, this is now the true challenge," stated Chairman Asim Z. Haque in the closing moments of PowerForward Phase 2. "We want to make sure that when we head into Phase 3, we have developed a gameplan that will truly be educative for us in the marketplace that we're trying to develop."
Chairman Asim Z. Haque appointed to NARUC Executive Committee
In October, National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) President John Betkoski III and the Executive Committee made new leadership appointments to several committees, including appointing PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque to the NARUC Executive Committee.
The Executive Committee includes NARUC’s principal officers who serve as the face of the association and are responsible for the organization’s overall direction.
NARUC is dedicated to representing the state public service commissions who regulate the utilities that provide essential services such as energy, telecommunications, water and transportation. NARUC’s mission is to serve in the public interest by improving the quality and effectiveness of public utility regulation.
Chairman Haque also serves on NARUC’s board of directors, where he is the Vice-Chair of the Task Force on Environmental Regulation and Generation, the Electricity Committee and the Critical Infrastructure Committee.
PUCO approves Ohio Rural Natural Gas asset transfer
On Oct. 4, 2017, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved the transfer of assets formerly owned and operated by Ohio Rural Natural Gas Co-op (ORNG) to Utility Pipeline, Ltd. (UPL). Current ORNG/Ludlow customers will receive natural gas service from and become members of Knox Energy Cooperative Association.
“Today the Commission completes its work to ensure that customers of the former Ohio Rural Natural Gas Co-op continue to receive safe, reliable natural gas service,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque. “Customers should feel confident their natural gas service is in experienced hands with Knox Energy.”
In the finding and order, the Commission directed UPL and Knox Energy to notify effected customers within 30 days, explaining the transaction and the terms under which Knox Energy will provide natural gas service. The Commission also ordered the companies to file notice with the PUCO within three days of the transaction’s closing.
The asset transfer comes at the end of a months-long investigation in which the Commission ordered ORNG to cease operations following repeated safety violations.
On Jan. 18, 2017, the Commission directed ORNG to cease operations. A PUCO investigation revealed that ORNG’s facilities were operated in a manner that may be hazardous to life and property, and that ORNG lacked knowledge, expertise and qualified management to safely operate a natural gas pipeline system.
On April 17, 2017, the Commission adopted an agreement, filed by ORNG, Ludlow Natural Gas Company (Ludlow), and PUCO staff, which stated that Ludlow would own and operate ORNG’s system until the assets could be sold or transferred to an unaffiliated third party, and that Ludlow would retain gas pipeline safety experts in order to safely provide utility service to ORNG/Ludlow’s customers pending the completion of a transfer of assets.
On Aug. 15, 2017, Ludlow, UPL, and Knox Energy jointly filed an application to transfer the assets from Ludlow to UPL, and to assign the customers to be served by Knox Energy.
A copy of the finding and order for this case is available on the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to the Docketing Information System and enter case 17-1785-GA-ATR in the search field.
PUCO adopts electric net metering rules
On Nov. 8, 2017, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) adopted updates to administrative rules that govern electric net metering. Net metering is a billing arrangement wherein customers who own electric generation facilities, such as solar panels or wind turbines, offset their need for electricity by producing their own. These customers may be credited for any excess electricity they return to the electric grid.
“The rules adopted today enhance the state of Ohio’s energy policy by establishing consistent, state-wide parameters for net metering, and foster a competitive marketplace for innovative products and services,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque. “The PUCO will continue to monitor its policies as more customers take advantage of net metering opportunities.”
The updated rules address the types and sizes of qualifying electric generation facilities, and the rate utilities use to credit customers for any excess electric generation returned to the electric grid.
The Commission established that a net metering facility may be sized based upon 120 percent of a customer’s average annual electric usage, at the time the facility is connected to the electric grid.
Customers receiving the standard service offer from regulated electric distribution utilities will be compensated for excess energy supplied to the grid in the form of a monthly bill credit at the utility’s standard service offer rate for energy. Customers who receive service from a competitive electric supplier may be credited at a rate agreed to in their contract for service.
On Nov. 18, 2015, the PUCO requested comments on proposed rules relating to net metering. Comments and reply comments were received from the National Resources Defense Council, The Alliance for Solar Choice, AEP Ohio, Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, Direct Energy, Duke Energy Ohio, FirstEnergy, One Energy, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Ohio Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund, Vote Solar, The Dayton Power & Light Company, Interstate Gas Supply, and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group.
The PUCO will submit final rules for Ohio Administrative Code 4901:1-10-28 to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review after a final, appealable order has been issued by the Commission. More information regarding the PUCO’s administrative rule review process is available on the PUCO website.
Safety tips from the PUCO
PUCO adopts Dayton Power & Light Company (DP&L) electric security plan
On Oct. 20, 2017, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) adopted an agreement that establishes an electric security plan (ESP) for the Dayton Power & Light Company (DP&L). The plan will determine the standard service offer (SSO) through Oct. 31, 2023.
“Today’s order represents long-term rate stability in that the term of this rate plan is six years. It also includes important provisions for ensuring grid safety and reliability, funding for low-income residential customers, promotes economic development and provides enhancements to the competitive retail marketplace,” stated PUCO Chairman Asim Z. Haque.
DP&L will continue to use a competitive bidding process to secure its electric load for its nonshopping customers.
DP&L will recover/credit the net proceeds from selling power from its share of the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation into the regional marketplace through the nonbypassable Reconciliation Rider.
DP&L will also establish a distribution modernization rider (DMR) to provide it with capital so that it will be financially healthy enough to make future investments in grid modernization. Although DP&L requested a $145 million dollar DMR rider annually for six years, the Commission approved recovery on the DMR at $105 million per year for three years. DP&L will also file a comprehensive grid modernization plan by Aug. 1, 2018 for Commission review.
Approval of this ESP also means DP&L will end the collection of its annual $73 million retail stability charge. A residential customer using 750 kilowatt hours per month will see a monthly bill increase of $2.92 during the term of the DMR.
On Feb. 22, 2016 DP&L filed an application to establish an electric security plan in accordance with Ohio Revised Code 4928.143. On April 11, 2016, and Oct. 11, 2016, DP&L filed amendments to its application.
On Jan. 30, 2017, and amended on March 14, 2017, a stipulation and recommendation was filed by DP&L, DPL Inc., PUCO staff, the city of Dayton, Interstate Gas Supply, Inc., Retail Energy Supply Association, Edgemont Neighborhood Coalition, People Working Cooperatively Inc., Ohio Hospital Association, Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Coalition, Ohio Energy Group, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy and The Kroger Company.
DP&L is to file final tariffs in compliance with this order as soon as possible. A copy of the Commission opinion and order for this case will be available at www.PUCO.ohio.gov. Click on the link to the Docketing Information System (DIS) and enter the case number 16-395-EL-SSO.
PUCO encourages use of rail crossing upgrade programs
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is encouraging local highway authorities to apply for available state-funding for rail grade crossing upgrades in their communities.
With over 5,700 public rail grade crossings in Ohio, the PUCO works with local highway authorities and rail companies to ensure that rail operations and infrastructure are safe and in compliance with federal and state regulations.
There are two state-funded programs that may be applicable for local communities: the state grade crossing upgrade program and the supplemental assistance program.
The state-funded Grade Crossing Upgrade Program allows local communities to share the cost of installing safety devices with the state and local railroad. Communities who utilize this program may be required to share in a small portion of the project costs but each case will be assessed on an individual basis.
To apply for this program, the local highway authority must simply submit this short application to the PUCO for approval.
The PUCO will conduct a field diagnostic review with local officials to determine if a financial proposal will be extended to upgrade the crossing. The financial proposal will apply objective criteria to determine the appropriate level of funding assistance. If the local highway authority agrees to the financial proposal, then a contract will be executed and the project will then be approved by the Commission for construction.
The PUCO also administers a supplemental assistance program to provide safety enhancements at crossings at which state or federal installation of active warning devices (gates and/or lights) is pending, as well as at crossings that have only crossbucks (the standard “X” signage). The PUCO provides up to $5,000 for physical improvements around the crossing such as rumble strips, illumination, improved signage, vegetation cut-back or other safety enhancements.
To apply for this program, the local highway authority must simply submit this one-page form to the PUCO for approval. Once the PUCO approves the project, construction is then completed and is reviewed by a PUCO inspector, the local highway authority submits the costs for reimbursement up to $5,000.
For further information regarding the programs listed above, please contact the PUCO Railroad Division at (614) 466-1150 or by accessing the rail industry section of the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov.
Recap: PowerForward Phase 1 and 2
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) plans to hold Phase 3 of PowerForward in qaurter 1, 2018, and the public is invited to join us online or in person. The first two phases, held in April and July, were titled "A Glimpse of the Future" and "Exploring Technologies."
During the first phase, "A Glimpse of the future," the Commission heard experts from around the country present on topics examining technologies affecting a modern distribution grid; what our future grid could offer customers; and what technologies are in development to realize such enhancements.
During the second phase, "Exploring Technologies," the Commission heard experts from around the country discuss the challenges, benefits and implementation process for new technologies on the electric distribution grid.
During the third phase, titled "Ratemaking and Regulation," the Commission will hear from national experts on topics examining the actions necessary on the part of the PUCO and the state of Ohio to make a future electric distribution grid possible.
If you missed the first two phases of PowerForward or just want a refresher on what the Commission has learned thus far, the following information can catch you up on proceedings.
Phase 1: A Glimpse of the Future | April 18-20, Columbus Ohio
Phase 2: Exploring Technologies | July 25-27, Columbus, Ohio
PUCO accepts electric supply auction results
Customers of investor-owned utilities continue to have options when considering the supply of their electric or natural gas service. For those customers who have not selected a supplier or enrolled in a government aggregation, the utilities offer a standard choice offer (SCO) for natural gas and a standard service offer (SSO) for electric supply.
These rates are determined by market prices and competitive supply auctions. The PUCO, along with third-party auction managers, monitor the auctions and competitive bidding process.
In October and November, auctions were held for the SSO/SCO for AEP Ohio and FirstEnergy.
In FirstEnergy’s wholesale electric auction, held Oct. 10, 2017, competitive suppliers submitted winning bids on two and three-year product to supply electricity to FirstEnergy’s customers.
The two-year product auction resulted in an average clearing price of $48.18 per megawatt hour (MWh) for the delivery period of June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018. The three-year product auction resulted in an average clearing price of $46.09 per MWh for the delivery period of June 2019 to May 2021.
The results will be blended with previous and future auctions to establish a price-to-compare for FirstEnergy’s Ohio customers during the delivery period.
In AEP Ohio’s wholsale electric auction, held Nov. 28, 2017, competitive suppliers submitted winning bids for a one-year product to supply electricity to AEP Ohio’s customers.
The auction resulted in an average clearing price of $51.16 MWh for the delivery period of June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018.
The results will be blended with previous auctions to establish a price-to-compare for AEP Ohio’s customers during the delivery period.
More information about how to choose a supplier is available at www.energychoice.ohio.gov. The PUCO’s Apples to Apples comparison charts offer a snapshot comparison of current electric and natural gas supplier price options and contract terms. The charts are updated daily.
Copies of the reports issued by the auction managers are available at www.PUCO.ohio.gov.
PUCO encourages safe driving around motor carriers during the holiday season
During the holiday season, Ohio’s world-class transportation system will be heavily relied upon as travelers visit family and friends. Ohio ranks fifth as one of the most highly traveled states in the country.
As more motorists share the road with commercial motor vehicles (CMVs), The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) offers these tips and a short video to help drivers understand and practice safe procedures around CMVs to ensure a safe and happy holiday travel season.
- Stay visible. Large trucks have blind spots too. If you cannot see the truck driver or their mirrors, chances are he or she cannot see you either. Keep plenty of distance and try to stay off their passenger side.
- Drive carefully. Drive carefully near large trucks. They do not have the same maneuverability as smaller vehicles. Ensure that you can see the roof of the truck in your rear view mirror before changing lanes in front of them.
- Be alert. Remember—you can only control your own driving. Be aware of other drivers, especially large trucks, and expect the unexpected. If something feels wrong, back off.
- Pay attention. Pay attention to weather and road conditions, and avoid the temptation to drive too fast, tailgate or change lanes improperly, especially around large trucks. And always remember, keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone or radio.
The PUCO is committed to improving road safety for Ohioans by ensuring the safe operation of CMVs in Ohio. Motor carrier companies that transport commerce and operate in Ohio must remain in compliance with all federal and state safety regulations that are administered by the PUCO, Ohio State Highway Patrol and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The PUCO and the Ohio State Highway Patrol regularly perform thorough inspections of commercial vehicles and professional drivers to ensure Ohio’s highways remain safe for drivers.
For more information on motor carrier safety, contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) or visit the motor carrier industry section of www.PUCO.ohio.gov.
PUCO awards 12 hazardous materials training grants in 2017
In 2017, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved twelve hazardous materials training grants totaling $221,485.91.
The PUCO plays an important role in ensuring that motor carriers are safely transporting hazardous materials throughout Ohio. Through the PUCO’s hazardous materials training grant program, public safety and emergency services personnel across Ohio are awarded grants for training to best respond to incidents related to hazardous materials.
The PUCO awarded the following grants:
- Brown County Local Emergency Planning Committee – $7,200 to conduct a full-scale hazardous materials exercise.
- Chemical Emergency Preparedness Advisory Council of Franklin County – $1,080 to conduct a Local Emergency Planning Committee hazardous materials table-top exercise in Franklin County.
- Champaign County Emergency Management Agency – $3,931.25 to conduct several hazardous materials training courses.
- Chagrin Southeast Council of Governments – $3,600 to conduct the 2017 Ohio Hazmat Teams Conference.
- Cincinnati State Technical and Community College – $75,000 to conduct two hazardous materials training courses.
- Clinton County Local Emergency Planning Committee – $8,818.20 to conduct a full-scale hazardous materials exercise.
- Green Perrysville Joint Fire District – $1,430 to conduct a hazardous materials refresher course.
- Stark County Emergency Management Agency – $4,320 to fund a hazardous materials transportation commodity flow study.
- Summit County Emergency Management Agency – $8,859.96 to conduct three 8-hour gasoline cargo tank emergencey response workshops.
- City of Toledo, Department of Public Utilities, Division of Environmental Services – $22,693 to conduct multiple hazardous materials training courses.
- Wyandot County Emergency Management Agency – $9,553.50 to conduct six hazardous materials training courses.
- University of Findlay – $75,000 to conduct four hazardous materials training courses.
The PUCO awards hazardous materials planning and training grants to local government subdivisions, educational institutions and state agencies in Ohio. Money for these grants comes from fines paid by hazardous material carriers and shippers. Individual grants are based upon applications to the PUCO and are awarded on a reimbursement basis.
The PUCO has regulatory authority to conduct audits, inspections and safety reviews to evaluate the safety records, policies and procedures of motor carriers, including hazardous materials carriers. The PUCO hazardous materials transportation program has been recognized by Battelle Memorial Institute as one of the best and most comprehensive of such programs in the nation.
For more information about the PUCO’s hazardous materials planning and training grants program, please visit the motor carrier section of www.PUCO.ohio.gov. For information on the 2017 grants, click on the link to Docketing Information System and enter the case number 17-1680-TR-UNC.
PUCO issues Winter Reconnect Order for 2017-2018
In September, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved the Winter Reconnect Order to help Ohioans reconnect or maintain electric and natural gas service during the winter heating season between Oct. 16, 2017 and April 13, 2018. Any customer of a PUCO-regulated electric or natural gas utility may take advantage of the order. Last winter heating season, more than 228,000 Ohio utility customers utilized the PUCO’s Winter Reconnect Order.
Energy utility service is vital, especially in the winter. The Winter Reconnect Order is an opportunity for Ohioans to avoid disconnection or to reconnect their gas and/or electric service once during the winter heating season. Customers who utilize the Winter Reconnect Order are required to pay the utility $175 plus any applicable reconnection charge not to exceed $36. If the company’s reconnection charge is greater than $36, the balance may be billed to the customer the following month.
The Winter Reconnect Order also applies to customers seeking to establish new electric and natural gas service. Rather than paying the full security deposit that may be required for new service, customers can pay up to $175 and be billed any remaining balance of the security deposit the following month.
There is no income eligibility requirement to utilize the Winter Reconnect Order, however customers who are at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty level may apply through the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) to pay the $175 amount. Several other state and federal programs are also available to Ohioans who qualify, including the Percentage of Income Payment Plan Plus (PIPP) and the Home Weatherization Assistance Program (HWAP). More information about these programs and additional ways to save on home heating bills this winter is available on Ohio’s Winter Heating Resource website at www.winterheat.ohio.gov.
If you would like to utilize the program, call your electric or natural gas utility between Oct. 16, 2017 and April 13, 2018, to find out more information about your account and how to apply the Winter Reconnect Order to your utility bill. Utility representatives will explain the order, and if applicable, set you up on a payment plan for any default amount. PIPP customers who would like to use the Winter Reconnect Order must pay the balance of any default they may have within one billing cycle in order to re-enroll in PIPP.
Customers who have questions about the PUCO’s Winter Reconnect Order may contact the PUCO at (800) 686-PUCO (7826) or visit the PUCO website at www.PUCO.ohio.gov.
Tips for safe holiday decorating from the PUCO