HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today launched an investigation into the state’s retail natural gas market.
“Given the tremendous natural gas resources that exist in the Commonwealth, there is great excitement over the potential to grow the use of natural gas,” said PUC Commissioners Pamela A. Witmer and James H. Cawley in a joint motion. “We believe that the time is right for the Commission to renew its inquiry and initiate a formal investigation into the current status of Pennsylvania’s retail natural gas market to assess whether effective competition exists and make recommendations for improvements to ensure that consumers have more opportunities to realize the benefits of Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources.”
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve the motion, which included a list of eight questions. Interested parties are asked to submit answers to the questions by Dec. 12, 2013. The Commission then directed its Office of Competitive Markets Oversight to review the comments and provide recommendations to the Commission outlining specific courses of action to improve the competitiveness of Pennsylvania’s retail gas market.
In the October 2005 Report to the General Assembly on Pennsylvania’s Retail Natural Gas Supply Market, the PUC determined that effective competition did not exist in Pennsylvania’s retail natural gas market. As a result, the Commission was required by law to convene a natural gas stakeholders working group to explore avenues, including legislative, in order to encourage increased competition in the Commonwealth.
While the PUC has implemented a number of changes in an attempt to enhance retail gas competition as a result of that proceeding, including completed rulemakings regarding NGDC cost-recovery and rates and NGS licensing.
“The number of current customers purchasing gas from a competitive supplier remains dismal at less than 13 percent on a statewide basis,” Commissioner Witmer and Commissioner Cawley said in the motion. “To that end, our action today launches a process to assess whether effective competition exists and make recommendations for improvements to ensure that a properly functioning and workable competitive retail natural gas market operates in the Commonwealth.”
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
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