Regulators plan to hold five public comment sessions to solicit input on their investigation of the third-party power industry, which provides about half of the state with electricity.
For years, Connecticut residents have been able to choose an electricity supplier other than the standard offering from Connecticut Light & Power or United Illuminating. The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority began the investigation in response to a sharp increase in customer complaints about the power companies' marketing practices.
The authority's goal is to establish new industry guidelines by the middle of the year for the how it markets power to customers, how customers switch between suppliers, how suppliers give notice to customers, and what types of products are allowed.
Recently, competition between the third-party market and the standard offer has increased, and many independent power companies have stepped up their marketing efforts and offered variable-rate plans to attract new customers.
While the variable plans sometimes offer the lower price, in other circumstances they mean higher prices. For example, as power prices recently increased throughout New England, some customers in Connecticut, many with variable rate plans, paid 24 cents a kilowatt hour, while customers with the standard offer paid close to 9 cents.
For this and other reasons, customers are upset.
Complaints have increased sharply from 223 in 2010, to 327 in 2011, 340 in 2012, and 986 in 2013. The top four companies that received complaints last year were Starion Energy, Public Power, North America Power and Direct Energy.
The first hearing is Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. in the Milford City Hall Auditorium, at 70 W. River St., Milford. The second is Feb. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Farmington Community Senior Center, 321 New Britain Ave., Unionville. The third is Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m. in Brookfield Town Hall, Room 135, 100 Pocono Road, Brookfield. The fourth is Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in Norwich City Hall, 100 Broadway, Norwich.
The final hearing is March 3, at 10:30 a.m. at PURA's offices, Ten Franklin Square, New Britain.
Comments will also be accepted by mail. Letters can be sent to Executive Secretary, Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051. In addition, comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, and must reference PURA Docket No. 13-07-18.