The New York State Public Service Commission on June 11 established a new proceeding (Case 20-M-0266) to identify and address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on utility service in the state.
The commission said that as related to its order, the pandemic is impacting the customers of multiple industries subject to commission oversight and programs, including electric and gas distribution utilities, private water suppliers, renewable and distributed energy generation, energy efficiency programs, as well as telecommunications and cable television service. The pandemic is impacting those industries, their operations, and could impact the ability to provide safe and reliable service at just and reasonable rates, the commission said.
Consistent with certain executive orders addressing the COVID-19 outbreak, including an executive order issued to ensure proper social distancing in the business sector, the commission said that it has undertaken several actions to address the ramifications of the pandemic to industries subject to commission oversight and programs, including postponing authorized tariff changes for Niagara Mohawk Power d/b/a National Grid, and temporarily waiving provisions of Central Hudson Gas and Electric’s gas tariff in response to the reduced gas demand by commercial customers.
The commission said that it has yet to act on other filings related to ramifications from the pandemic. For instance, the commission said, the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) filed motions requesting the suspension of three pending rate cases pending the submission and consideration of updated financial information reflecting the COVID-19 outbreak.
The commission noted that to date, it has acted to address COVID-19-related impacts to jurisdictional entities or commission programs as they emerged on a piecemeal, case-by-case basis.
The purpose of the proceeding, the commission said, is to consider in a timely and comprehensive manner the ramifications of the pandemic on the regulated entities, utility ratepayers, and such commission-adopted programs as those related to onshore and offshore renewable energy.
The proceeding will include impacts on rate-setting, rate design, utility financial strength, low-income programs, regulatory priorities, collections and termination of service, ensuring the provision of safe and adequate service at just and reasonable rates in recognition of the ramifications from the pandemic, and the extent if any that the commission’s clean energy programs should be maintained or accelerated, the commission said.
The commission said that it seeks comments on any issues related to the ramifications of COVID-19 from all types of ratepayers, including residential, commercial, and not-for-profit entities; from utilities and other entities subject to commission jurisdiction and programs; as well as all interested parties.
Comments may be filed within 30 days of issuance of the order, the commission said.