New Hampshire's deregulated energy market will be seeing some extra lines of communication between provider and ratepayer in the near future. A bill, sent to the House of Representatives last Thursday by the New Hampshire state Senate, seeks to inject a little more transparency into the state's deregulated market in the form of added information to the customer's monthly bill.
"Our state's energy ratepayers have been forced to deal with high energy prices this winter, and for some, a better option is choosing a low-rate energy supplier," said bill sponsor Sen. Russell Prescott according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. "Unfortunately, the terms of such contracts have not been overly clear, which has led to dramatic and unexpected rate changes for consumers."
"Legislators worry about customer dissatisfaction with variable rates after a volatile winter."
Reading the fine print What does the bill hope to enforce? Above all, the legislation seeks to add a level of clarity to the billing system. Legislators, including the 2 senators backing the measure, worried about customer dissatisfaction after a particularly volatile winter for customers with variable rates - contracts with rates subject to monthly cost fluctuations as opposed to fixed rates. Worse still would be the prospect of customers feeling like they'd been taken advantage of.
If the measure passes, all utility bills sent to customers, regardless of provider, will include information as to what kind of contract a ratepayer is currently enrolled in, how long it lasts and if cancelation charges have been or will be applied. Also, on a month-to-month basis, variable rate customers will be shown what their rates would have been had they chosen a fixed rate plan and vice versa.
An additional section spells out the grounds under which retail energy providers are allowed to sign up customers for variable rate plans. Even if a customer originally signed up for a variable plan, another one couldn't be tacked on automatically without the written consent of the customer in question 45 days before expiration.
Squeaky clean deregulation Ultimately, SB 170 strengthens the deregulated energy market in New Hampshire by educating customers about their energy use and providing them with the tools to make informed decisions.
Under this new bill, the state's public utilities commission will also be part of the change. The organization will be charged with updating their website to provide the public with better means to compare prices and shop around for energy providers, as well as research market trends that might aid in their decision between a fixed or variable rate energy plan.
With less room for miscommunication, free market competition can once again lead the conversation. Only companies capable of providing the lowest rates in New Hampshire will succeed.
This content is property of ESCO Advisors and all reproductions must reference and link back to the ESCO Advisors website.