Connecticut Takes Pulse of Gas Unbundling
Connecticut regulators last week issued a draft decision that
takes a mid-course review of commercial and industrial natural gas
unbundling in an effort to fine-tune the state's two-year-old
program. The draft also was seen as a "first step" toward possibly
achieving customer choice in the state's residential gas market
further down the road.
"As you can see, we needed to fine-tune [commercial and
industrial unbundling] a lot. I mean there are a lot of customers
using it. There's no question about that. But there have been a
couple of glitches...people who've been left short," said Beryl
Lyons, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Public
Utility Control (PUC).
In the Phase I draft, state regulators and market participants
revisited a number of issues, including the need for shorter, less
complex transportation agreements between LDCs and gas suppliers;
the need for simplified and uniform tariffs; firm transportation
rate design; nomination procedures for gas deliveries; balancing
and capacity release. The draft ruling is expected to become final
on July 22.
The commission's next step is to apply the revisions to the
state's three LDCs - Connecticut Natural Gas, Southern Connecticut
Gas and Yankee Gas Services, which combined serve about 476,000 gas
customers in the state. "We would open up each of the three gas
companies prior rate cases to put into effect the mid-course
corrections that are discussed in the draft," noted Lyons. This
will be followed by the commission undertaking Phase II of the
review, where it will decide the fate of customer choice for
residential gas users.
At this stage, "we don't know if there's going to be residential
unbundling" in Connecticut, a state with a large poor population,
Lyons told NGI. "Most of our suburbs don't have gas service. Gas is
mainly in the inner cities," she noted, adding that the state's
decision on whether to go ahead with residential unbundling will
involve "a lot of social considerations" as a result. "You've got
one company here whose uncollectibles are just unbelievable. They
serve the two poorest cities in the state," she said.
"By the time we open up the three dockets for the three gas
companies, get all of their tariffs in place and then begin with
all of the myriad of issues that have to be dealt with in order to
get to the potential for gas unbundling, it's going to be at least
another year" before state regulators decide whether customer
choice is a viable option in Connecticut, Lyons noted.
The commission will make the final decision on residential
unbundling, she said, but added that state lawmakers are
contemplating forming a task force to review the customer-choice
issue - which could be a precursor to legislation. "I would watch
to see what happens in next year's legislative session."
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