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Exelon, politics and Illinois’ low-carbon future

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by rgadmin

This article offers excellent insight into how policy (politics) influences energy and energy costs.

Government is the only entity that can impose priorities on energy. That is, without environmental laws, energy production would be governed by cost and perhaps by convenience.

So when the Government (state or federal) imposes or doesn’t impose a tax or subsidizes an energy utility, it’s important.

Illinois has a history of supporting coal with tax advantages which historically has provided jobs and low energy costs; however, both have declined and could decline further due to carbon emissions and nuclear power.

Illinois has halted its support of renewable energy (created from wind, solar or water) with tax advantages. When they have supported renewables, it has favored larger utility scale renewables over smaller installations.

This article shows how two large corporations are presenting their case for economic assistance from the State of Illinois. Which one do you think deserves assistance?

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that Realgy has built and operates four solar photovoltaic power plants in Illinois. Realgy received State and Federal tax subsidiaries and would not have done so without them.

Solar array on the main warehouse of Lake Line Deliveries Evanston, IL

Read the full Renewablesbiz article, “Exelon, politics and Illinois’ low-carbon future


Citizens Energy Group being investigated for Energy Bill practices

Posted on: June 27th, 2014 by rgadmin

Citizens Energy Group in seeking to simplify service for their customers seems to have aggravated an already problematic issue—billing. After aggregating the gas, water, and wastewater in their monthly bill, the number of complaints and the complications in resolving those complaints has sky-rocketed.

Gas-bill

How would you react if 20% of your customers hung up because of long wait times when they called in to resolve a billing issue?

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) has opened an investigation into Citizens Energy billing practices. If you have experienced billing issues, please contact the IURC (information provided below) to have it addressed.

Realgy Energy is a registered energy marketer in the Citizens Energy Select program. Through this program, Realgy offers commercial and industrial customers direct wholesale prices without any utility cost added; the result has been savings. To find out how much you can save through Citizens Energy Select, please call or visit; Service Plans for Citizens Gas

Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission Contact Info
Reference: Docket #44462; Citizens Energy billing inquiry

IURC Investigation

IURC docket #44462

Read the full Fox 59 article, “Regulators to investigate Citizens Energy’s management, billing practices


MidAmerican Energy seeks rate increase in Illinois

Posted on: June 26th, 2014 by rgadmin

Twenty-two years without a raise—think about it. That would be very hard. However, utilities do not operate at a fixed cost; they operate as a regulated monopoly (like the game) and receive a fixed rate of return. That is, utilities get to spend what is necessary to provide service and seek approval for those costs. Utilities like MidAmerican earn a regulated rate of return (in business that’s called margin) on everything they spend (subject to approval).

So, although MidAmerican-Illinois (MEC) has not increased energy costs during this time, they have spent $289 million on improvements to the electric grid and their generators. If this were all spent as required to provide service, then MEC which earns about 9% rate of return, would earn about $26 million a year in profit.

So after 22 years, an increase of 21% for residential and 13% for business might not seem like a lot, but remember MEC has no competition and earns profit on spending money to provide service.

Electricity-rates-increase

Can you avoid the rate increase? The short answer is yes.

Illinois customers of MidAmerican Energy can now participate in the Illinois Electric Choice Program. The idea is simple; provide customers the right to buy their electricity directly from suppliers without any additional cost from the local utility. The result has been savings for Illinois consumers—an estimated $37 billion dollars due to electric competition.

Realgy Energy Service is the first energy marketer registered with MidAmerican Energy-Illinois enrolling customers in the Illinois Electric Choice Program. Additional information is available at Service Plans for MidAmerican.


Peoples Gas parent to be acquired in $9.1 billion deal

Posted on: June 24th, 2014 by rgadmin

Trending: Utilities are consolidating and getting bigger.

Peoples and North Shore, already part of a utility holding company headquartered in Chicago, are being bought by a Wisconsin-based utility holding company.

NICOR is owned by a utility holding company with its headquarters in Atlanta.

The acquisition of Peoples is following a trend of consolidation of regional utilities. The leading argument for consolidation is that redundant “overhead” costs can be consolidated. What consolidation usually means is that the local utility is no longer local. Remember that Peoples, NICOR, and ComEd are not competitive companies eking out an unknown profit. They have a monopoly (much like the game!) where they get to recover their set profit margin on expenses incurred in providing their essential service. That is to say, the more they spend on providing their service, the more profit they make which is why regulators approve their costs.

monopoly money

So consolidation means what? Typically, regionalized services by utilities means a loss of stable local jobs accompanied by higher costs. Remember it’s not a competitive industry. They get a regulated return for delivering energy. That’s why reducing costs does not translate to lower energy costs (note; if they spend less, they make less profit). Consolidating accounting, customer service, and management typically results in longer wait times, longer outage times, and higher returns to corporate shareholders.

The good news is that you do have competition for your energy services. Realgy Energy Services offer electric and natural gas service that is consistently below the utility. We compete for your business, by saving you money. And we do enjoy competing with bigger utilities!

Read the full Chicago Sun-Times article: “Wisconsin Energy buying Peoples Gas parent Integrys for $9.1 billion”.


Electric wholesale prices to rise by 9 times overall since end of Winter 2014

Posted on: June 23rd, 2014 by rgadmin

We ask “what is going on with electric prices?”

PJM is essentially the wholesale market for electricity in ComEd. They will request bids from generators (electric generator owners) every year for the next three years. PJM issued a press release announcing the results of their most recent auction.

electric-lines

The press release shares some interesting highlights such as “increased diversity” even though they acknowledge the trend to more gas-fired generation.

However, the bigger issue is that the cost of the bids increased dramatically over the next year, rising from $27.73 in 2014 to over $136 by the end of 2015. This nearly 900% increase will be passed thru to all retail customers. We have already seen about 50% of this increase.

This projected increase does NOT appear to be directly related to the winter “vortex” of 2014. However, given the timing of PJM’s bid (just after winter) and the trend to more gas-fired generation, some link shouldn’t be dismissed. Last winter reminded energy traders, power generators, utilities, and energy marketers of the extent of their reliance on certain pipelines. The demand on these pipelines is increasing (by both gas-fired electrical generation and through population growth). Therefore, as the wholesale price increases, we will be starting at a higher price next winter. If winter or summer weather spikes, we could see even greater pricing than last winter.

Realgy offers fixed pricing to reduce the effect of seasonal weather by offering a winter or summer fixed price. This allows our customers to avoid paying a premium for a fixed price when they don’t have to. Please call your Energy Broker or see our PriceWatchTM service at http://realgyenergyservices.com/request-for-service/pricewatchtm/

 

Read the full PJM press release, “PJM Capacity Market Secures New And Diverse Resources To Meet Future Electricity Demand”.


Local business wins; the Office of Governmental Accountability wins appeal against Department of Labor

Posted on: June 20th, 2014 by rgadmin

press_release

18 JUNE 2014 | By: Realgy, LLC

One year ago in May 2013, the Office of Governmental Accountability (OGA) issued their finding which required the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) to provide certain documents related to their ongoing investigation as requested by Realgy. The DOL appealed that decision and the appellate court upheld OGA’s decision. The result; DOL cannot claim an exemption to releasing the information.

Realgy, LLC, a West Hartford business for 13 years, filed a Freedom of Information Request (FOIA), which is handled under the Office of Governmental Accountability in Connecticut.  Michael Vrtis, President of Realgy explained “We filed a freedom of information request to hold DOL to the same standard as they have held us and seek to have information released that will show what we believe to be an abuse of power by DOL during this investigation.”

DOL filed their appeal against releasing this information as it would harm their ability to investigate Realgy stating “…that every investigation initiated is criminal in nature.” In addition, DOL cited that Realgy’s “…request for documents merely is an effort to hinder the DOL’s pending investigation and to harass the wage agent assigned to the investigation.”

However, the appellate court upheld the OGA’s finding that found that DOL had spent 4 years on the investigation, had not communicated with Realgy in over a year, and that DOL failed to prove that there is any consideration of legal action against Realgy.

Vrtis stated, “We feel grateful to OGA for wading through DOL’s defense and appeal of this investigation.” Vrtis continued, “with this appeal resolved, the original OGA’s finding are upheld and DOL will be held to the same standard as every business in Connecticut. I look forward to receiving the information and making it public.”

Realgy was only a 3rd party to this appeal as it was DOL who appealed OGA’s ruling.  In essence;

The FOIC (Freedom of Information Commission) initially ruled Realgy and the public did have that right and DOL should turn over the documents.  DOL sued the FOIC ruling they didn’t. The Superior Court decided they did.

This decision is important as it means the DOL has to be held accountable as is every business in Connecticut and turn over the documents they collect in the course of their business. They cannot claim that an open investigation gives them protection against such requests. DOL has no time constraints on an investigation, therefore, and has been able to shield collected information for years.

Vrtis explained “the FOIA request has been the only means available to Realgy to have DOL be held accountable for the ongoing investigation.” All FOIA requests involve a company requesting information from a governmental agency. The Office of Government Accountability houses the FOIC; additional information is at http://www.ct.gov/foi. The FOIA process required Realgy to request specific information from DOL through the FOIC. The FOIC rules on Realgy’s request for information and the resulting decision requires DOL to release the requested information.

“For over four years the DOL has investigated Realgy for violations of labor laws which can be a criminal matter. Four years for investigating one complaint from one employee who was only with Realgy for one year.  Such an open investigation can be intimidating and as such, no other governmental or politician will address it until the conclusion of the investigation,” stated Vrtis.

Vrtis continued, “The Office of Government Accountability and, in particular, the Freedom of Information Commission are valuable entities. Without having to hire an attorney, Realgy can be heard by an impartial panel that has the power to order DOL to produce the records and be held accountable for their investigation. I am impressed by the hard work of this impartial panel to balance the power of governmental agencies against the need for business to protect themselves from abuse of that power.”

 

Contact:

Realgy, LLC
Michael Vrtis
675 Oakwood Avenue
West Hartford, CT
860-233-2270
www.realgyenergyservices.com


Michigan Gas Costs—set to increase dramatically

Posted on: June 19th, 2014 by rgadmin

With Consumers Energy approval for their “extraordinary rate cost recovery” the other Michigan utilities have quickly followed. Consumers’ June cost is $5.597, compared to Realgy’s price at $5.240 or a savings of $0.357/MCF. Consumers Energy has been approved to charge this cost until April 2015.

money gas

Recent filing to the MPSC discloses the following:

DTE/MichCon:

The current price in June is $4.24/MCF. In their U-17332 filings it looks like they are requesting an increase to $5.32 effective August 1.

MGU:

The current price in June is $4.71/MCF. In their U-17331 filings it looks like they are requesting and have been approved for an increase to $5.278 effective the first cycle following the date of the order, June 6.

SEMCO:

The current price in June is $4.62/MCF. In their U-17333 filings it looks like they are requesting an increase to $5.7525 effective July 1.

The full documents are available at: www.dleg.state.mi.us/mpsc/orders/filings

Realgy Energy Services is significantly less than the utility service. Additional information is available at; www.realgyenergyservices/michigan

 


PJM Backs Duke’s $9.8M ‘Stranded Gas’ Claim

Posted on: June 18th, 2014 by rgadmin

And now the lawsuits over winter’s Polar Vortex 2014 begin. Much like this winter (coldest in 22 years), this is a unique circumstance and would be record-setting.

The players:

PJM—the regional authority that calls on power generators to meet expected and actual electric (power) demand (PJM could represent any utility that was affected).

Duke—owns generation plants (this could be any energy marketer serving customers).

Duke Lee Energy Facility (Source: Bill Spindler, SouthPoleStation.com)

Duke Lee Energy Facility (Source: Bill Spindler, SouthPoleStation.com)

FERC—the federal government overseeing wholesale interstate markets (this of as the referee).

Like all power suppliers when the utility (in this case PJM) called for more power to meet the record demand for electricity (natural gas) the generators had to respond. Duke went out and bought natural gas to generate the electricity but didn’t get paid enough from the electricity (or reselling the natural gas) to cover its cost (plus profit). Therefore, it wants to recover the cost from PJM (think all of us).

Duke is not unique. Every utility did this to every supplier during this winter. Whether it was gas or electric, it worked the same. The utility called for more and the marketers had to respond.

The idea that we (Realgy) could go back to one of the utilities that requested more gas/electricity such as NICOR, Citizens, COMED, Consumers, etc. and say that you asked us to bring more but we didn’t get paid enough so please make up the difference—well it’s laughable. However, Duke thinks it’s not!

Realgy Energy Services is an energy marketer of natural gas and electricity in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. We provide direct service without a utility mark-up behind 12 utilities. To learn how much we can save you and the benefits of Customer Choice please see www.realgyenergyservices.com.

Read the whole ROT Insider article, “PJM Backs Duke’s $9.8M ‘Stranded Gas’ Claim


Illinois continues to use legislation to pursue energy policy

Posted on: June 17th, 2014 by rgadmin

Illinois has current legislation on renewal energy that sets aside a percentage of supply; that is, a percentage each year of the total energy used in Illinois must come from renewable (wind or solar) generation sources. However, the spirit of this program relies on the utilities passing through the costs of acquiring the renewable energy to their customers. Customer Choice, municipal aggregation, and the IPA itself changed how the utility acquires power for their customers (which is dwindling due to choice and municipalization). Therefore the current renewable legislation’s intent has been blunted.

solar panels

This effort seems to be another bite of the same apple. Renewable energy should be supported by open and competitive process and we are heartened to see that this legislation will be overseen by the ICC. Past legislative efforts have bypassed the ICC’s oversight and expertise in favor of the utilities (real-time metering) or municipalization (allowing towns to aggregate energy purchases).

Realgy owns 120 kw of solar energy in Illinois and invests annually in the creation of new renewable solar projects.

Read the whole Crain’s Chicago Business article, “Here comes the sun: Rooftop solar panels get jump-start in Illinois”.

 

 


Chicago homeowners could get ZAPPED

Posted on: June 11th, 2014 by rgadmin

Electric prices need not be confusing. The primary reason we have regulated utilities is for efficiency, no duplicate wires or pipes. Offering electric choice does not change this. Electric prices have always been controlled by rather confusing processes called tariffs (akin to IRS taxes) because it was, and is a regulated monopoly. THE REGULATORS are in charge of the process; utilities must prove they spent money according to the tariff so they can get it repaid. Customer choice does not change this relationship between regulators and the utility; it just adds a new player—the retail energy supplier.

electricity_meter

Having energy choice need not confuse customers. The regulators need to continue balancing customer choice against their desire to have a regulated market without innovation or price volatility.

Realgy believes in open competition and easily understood explanations of energy offers. Realgy offers energy prices that show a savings compared to the utility, offers fixed pricing during seasons, and offers to beat or match any competitor’s offer.

Check out our current prices that will show you our price as compared to the utility for every market we serve.

Read the whole Chicago Business article, Emanuel’s power pact could zap Chicago homeowners.

 

 


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