Current through P.A. Acts 2020-140
Section 2802 - Declaration of policy
The General Assembly finds and declares as follows:(1) Over the past 20 years, the Federal Government and State government have introduced competition in several industries that previously had been regulated as natural monopolies.(2) Many state governments are implementing or studying policies that would create a competitive market for the generation of electricity.(3) Because of advances in electric generation technology and Federal initiatives to encourage greater competition in the wholesale electric market, it is now in the public interest to permit retail customers to obtain direct access to a competitive generation market as long as safe and affordable transmission and distribution service is available at levels of reliability that are currently enjoyed by the citizens and businesses of this Commonwealth.(4) Rates for electricity in this Commonwealth are on average higher than the national average, and significant differences exist among the rates of Pennsylvania electric utilities.(5) Competitive market forces are more effective than economic regulation in controlling the cost of generating electricity.(6) The cost of electricity is an important factor in decisions made by businesses concerning locating, expanding and retaining facilities in this Commonwealth.(7) This Commonwealth must begin the transition from regulation to greater competition in the electricity generation market to benefit all classes of customers and to protect this Commonwealth's ability to compete in the national and international marketplace for industry and jobs.(8) In moving toward greater competition in the electricity generation market, the Commonwealth must resolve certain transitional issues in a manner that is fair to customers, electric utilities, investors, the employees of electric utilities, local communities, nonutility generators of electricity and other affected parties.(9) Electric service is essential to the health and well-being of residents, to public safety and to orderly economic development, and electric service should be available to all customers on reasonable terms and conditions.(10) The Commonwealth must, at a minimum, continue the protections, policies and services that now assist customers who are low-income to afford electric service.(11) In order to ensure the safety and reliability of the electric system, ensure the continued provision of high-quality customer service and avoid economic dislocation, utilities shall consider the experience and expertise of their work force in moving towards competition.(12) The purpose of this chapter is to modify existing legislation and regulations and to establish standards and procedures in order to create direct access by retail customers to the competitive market for the generation of electricity while maintaining the safety and reliability of the electric system for all parties. Reliable electric service is of the utmost importance to the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of the Commonwealth. Electric industry restructuring should ensure the reliability of the interconnected electric system by maintaining the efficiency of the transmission and distribution system.(13) Under current law and regulation there exists some competition in the wholesale market for the generation of electricity, but the generation, transmission, distribution and retail sale of electricity is provided generally by public utilities under bundled rates regulated by the commission. The procedures established under this chapter provide for a fair and orderly transition from the current regulated structure to a structure under which retail customers will have direct access to a competitive market for the generation and sale or purchase of electricity.(14) This chapter requires electric utilities to unbundle their rates and services and to provide open access over their transmission and distribution systems to allow competitive suppliers to generate and sell electricity directly to consumers in this Commonwealth. The generation of electricity will no longer be regulated as a public utility function except as otherwise provided for in this chapter. Electric generation suppliers will be required to obtain licenses, demonstrate financial responsibility and comply with such other requirements concerning service as the commission deems necessary for the protection of the public.(15) In establishing the standards for the transition to and creation of a competitive electric market, heretofore, public utilities generally have had an obligation to serve customers within their defined service territories; consistent with that obligation, have undertaken long-term investments in generation, transmission and distribution facilities in order to meet the needs of their customers; and have entered into long-term power supply agreements as required by Federal law. In many instances, these investments and agreements have created costs which may not be recoverable in a competitive market. The commission is empowered under this chapter to determine the level of transition or stranded costs for each electric utility and to provide a mechanism, the competitive transition charge, for recovery of an appropriate amount of such costs in accordance with the standards established in this chapter.(16) It is in the public interest for the transmission and distribution of electricity to continue to be regulated as a natural monopoly subject to the jurisdiction and active supervision of the commission. Electric distribution companies should continue to be the provider of last resort in order to ensure the availability of universal electric service in this Commonwealth unless another provider of last resort is approved by the commission.(17) There are certain public purpose costs, including programs for low-income assistance, energy conservation and others, which have been implemented and supported by public utilities' bundled rates. The public purpose is to be promoted by continuing universal service and energy conservation policies, protections and services, and full recovery of such costs is to be permitted through a nonbypassable rate mechanism.(18) There are certain changes to a utility which will create transition costs to accomplish the move to a competitive market. These changes may entail the closure of facilities or reduction in employee levels. If such actions are to be undertaken, the utility must fully inform the commission of the impact of such decisions on local communities and on social services and of any tax implications of the actions. The utility is expected to discuss the transition to competition with its employees or their certified representatives and may provide severance, retraining, early retirement and outplacement services. Such transition costs may be recoverable under the competitive transition charge in section 2808 (relating to competitive transition charge).(19) All participants in the restructured electric industry are encouraged to coordinate their plans and transactions through an independent system operator or its functional equivalent.(20) Since continuing and ensuring the reliability of electric service depends on adequate generation and on conscientious inspection and maintenance of transmission and distribution systems, the independent system operator or its functional equivalent should set, and the commission shall set through regulations, inspection, maintenance, repair and replacement standards and enforce those standards.(21) Under Federal and State clean air laws and regulations, electricity generators located in states to the west and south of this Commonwealth are not subject to requirements as stringent as those which apply to generators and other "persons" as defined in section 3 of the act of January 8, 1960 (1959 P.L. 2119, No. 787), known as the Air Pollution Control Act, operating in this Commonwealth and that different regions within this Commonwealth are subject to varying air emission requirements. Under some scenarios, competition among electricity generators located in different states and different regions within this Commonwealth could make it more difficult for areas in this Commonwealth to demonstrate attainment with Federal and State air quality standards. Since this result may be caused by the disparate requirements imposed by Federal and State law on generators and other "persons" as defined in section 3 of the Air Pollution Control Act in this Commonwealth and generators located in other states, the General Assembly supports changes to Federal clean air laws and regulations that will protect Pennsylvania's environment and ensure that electricity generators and other "persons" as defined in section 3 of the Air Pollution Control Act located in this Commonwealth are not placed at an undue competitive disadvantage. The commission will consult with the Department of Environmental Protection regarding this issue during the transition to retail competition.1996, Dec. 3, P.L. 802, No. 138, § 4, effective Jan. 1, 1997.