NY Heavy Into Analyzing Retail Market
Four stakeholder committees set up last March by the New York
Public Service Commission (PSC) have identified the key roadblocks
in the state's stalled retail energy deregulation process. By next
spring, they expect to have some solutions - if it isn't too late.
That the electric market wasn't functioning very well was
evident in the summer's power price spikes, emergency price caps
and customer complaints. This winter may give the committees a lot
more real-time input about how well the deregulated natural gas
market and power markets function during a peak heating season.
The committees submitted their first conclusions late last month
and are expected to make final recommendations to the commission by
One major problem the committee on Public Involvement and Input
discovered was that a large number of New Yorkers didn't even know
they had a choice of suppliers. Market surveys in 1999 showed that
61% - about the same percentage as in 1998 - were aware they had a
choice of power suppliers, but only 24% knew about retail
competition for gas.
Of those who did know about and participate in natural gas
choice programs, a survey showed 54% and 71% of residential and
commercial customers respectively were "satisfied" with their gas
marketer. The study also pointed out that satisfaction varied among
utility service territories. Only 36% of residential and 53% of
commercial customers in the Con Edison service territory were
satisfied, whereas the National Fuel territory reported
satisfaction levels of 76% for residential and 83% for commercial
Other stakeholder committees turning in first drafts last were
the Public Benefits Committee, Future Role of Regulated Utilities
Committee, and the Retail Development Committee. The groups include
representatives of utilities, energy service companies, state
agencies, consumer advocate groups, environmental groups and other
"There is a psychological process that groups go through as they
work together toward a common goal," said ALJ Jeffrey E. Stockholm.
"What all the judges have tried to do is to give them a common goal
and the first piece of it was generating these reports, now the
second part is the analysis which is going to be more difficult. In
my opinion the groups have come together and the committees are
working extremely well."
"Phase two is going to be a much more compressed time period
than phase one, so I am not sure exactly what level we are going to
be able to address a lot of these things," said Public Benefit
Program co-Chair and Niagara Mohawk representative Jack Ziegler.
"But I am sure there is a meeting of the Executive Committee on
Friday and we will get some direction from the judges at that
"I think it [choice] certainly can work, 'can' has never been a
doubt, but whether it will is another thing entirely," said a
committee member. "There are all kinds of variables. Some people
say that ISO caps are making warning signs towards generators, I
don't think so, the ISO caps that have been proposed are high
enough that I don't think they should scare off many generators. I
certainly think a form of competition can and will exist in New
York. "In the birthing process, there is always a little bit of
pain, the question is whether you can ride out the pain."
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