Understanding the Role of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to Energize Connecticut

PURA, the State of Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, is the regulatory agency that oversees the rates and services of electricity, natural gas, water and telecommunications companies, and manages franchises for the state’s cable television companies. The former name for this agency was Department of Public Utility Control, or DPUC.

PURA’s role in CT Electricity is to “watch over competitive utility services to promote equity among competitors while customers reap the price and quality benefits of competition and are protected from unfair business practices.”

What are PURA’s Responsibilities?

PURA’s has 4 areas of responsibility:

  1. Review filings from 2 deregulated electric utilities, The United Illuminating Company (UI) and Eversource (formerly Connecticut Light & Power or CTL&P). These filings include transmission and distribution rates, cost of service, and other CT rate cases to set your Standard Service Offer (SSO) rate. The SSO is the electric rate you will pay if you do not shop for a CT electricity supplier.
  2. Oversee consumer complaints and consumer affairs
  3. Monitor Renewable Energy and compliance with Renewable Portfolio Standards. As of 2018, Connecticut  state law requires all electricity plans to be at least 25% renewable or green energy. In early 2018, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) recommended that Connecticut raise this to require 40% green energy by 2030.
  4. Perform licensing and oversight of electric suppliers and aggregators.

Electricity Deregulation in CT

Under PURA’s oversight, electricity has been deregulated in Connecticut since 2000. There are 2 deregulated utilities in the state, The United Illuminating Company (UI) and Eversource (formerly Connecticut Light and Power or CTL&P).

Deregulation means that you can shop for the generation portion (supply) of your electricity bill, instead of paying the SSO rate to your utility. Your local utility, UI or Eversource, continues to read your meter, deliver power, respond in the case of an electrical emergency or outage, and issue your bill. But when you shop for an electricity supplier in CT, you can choose from fixed rate plans, electricity + extra stuff (incentives) or renewable green energy.

As of early 2018, 33% of residential customers have switched to a competitive supplier in United Illuminating, and 26% of customers have switched in the Eversource area. Shopping for an electricity supplier in CT allows consumers to take advantage of deregulation.

CT Consumer Protection

A major role of PURA is that of consumer protection. In 2015, PURA banned the sale of variable rate plans in CT. A variable rate plan sounds great. It’s a month to month, no-commitment electricity plan. But the rate also varies by month.

After the 2014 Polar Vortex, many consumers in CT experienced sky-high electricity bills. Consumers that were hurt by the price spikes were not just those who had selected a variable rate plan. Many consumers who had not renewed their fixed price energy rate in CT were being served by their supplier on a variable rate plan.

PURA works closely with the Office of Consumer Counsel (OCC), suppliers and CT legislators to ensure that suppliers educate consumers on the risks and benefits of plans in clear language. Suppliers must notify customers when their contract is expiring.

Your CT Utility Standard Service Offer

Your cost of generation supply from Eversource or United Illuminating is based on the cost of fuel to generate electricity, and the cost of supply contracts that they can secure. PURA oversees the rate setting process for the Standard Service Offer, to ensure that consumers pay a fair price.

PURA approves the default utility rate, or Standard Service Offer. The SSO changes every 6 months, on January 1 and July 1. Utilities announce new SSO rates in CT 7 weeks before rates are effective, in mid-May and Mid-November.

How does Capacity Impact the Electricity Rate in CT?

PURA is responsible for ensuring that all of Connecticut has access to reliable electricity supply. Because of limited electricity generation in the New England Area, you also pay for “capacity.”

Capacity is the capital cost of power plants and the investment needed in transmission lines to deliver electricity. Capacity fees help incent companies to build more power plants in CT and the New England area.

Every customer in CT, including your home, has a “load factor score” and ICAP Tag. A load factor measures how you use electricity at a specific point in time. And your ICAP tag isn’t a fancy new gadget from Apple. It stands for Installed Capacity and measures your home or business’ electricity use during the system peak – the highest overall usage point of electricity during the year.

TIP: You may be able to lower your annual electricity costs by watching the news for peak demand days. On days with high demand for electricity (typically during summer cooling months), raise your thermostat a few degrees! Turn off the pool pump, shut the blinds and use fans to stay cool. Maybe even go to a movie and use someone else’s AC! You may just get your ICAP lowered for the next year! New ICAP tag values are calculated in the spring of each year, using the peak load contribution from the previous June 1 – May 31.

Shopping for Electricity in CT

If you want to compare electric rates in CT and are looking for CT energy Info, PURA has an official generation supply rate board to compare CT electricity prices, called EnergizeCT℠. But there are so may offers. Which one to choose?

Using ElectricityPlans.com lets you choose from the best electricity offers in CT. We only work with high quality suppliers that have made it through our vetting process. All plans offered are fixed price plans, and we will always point out if there’s fine print in the offer.

For more information on shopping for the best electricity rate in CT, see our article on How to Shop for an Electric Supplier in CT.

What information can I find on the PURA web site?

On the PURA site you will find information on energy efficiency, renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS), home energy audits and energy assistance programs. They also maintain a state shopping site, EnergizeCT℠, and consumer complaint statistics related to suppliers and utilities.

We hope this article has helped you better understand the role of PURA in regulating electricity rates in Connecticut. Let’s get shopping!