PNE reverses itself on Fairpoint transfer

It’s not fun to have to search the news to find out what’s happening with my electrical power delivery. The Nashua Telegraph now reports:

Customers who bought power from PNE through Resident Power, an “aggregator” that gathers customers for suppliers such as PNE, received an email Thursday telling them that the previously announced transfer to FairPoint Energy “has not gone through.” They have been switched back to being customers of Public Service of New Hampshire, at higher rates.

I didn’t get this notice. I still have electricity at home, but I don’t know who will be billing me for it.

The electrical power situation in New Hampshire is a case of fake “deregulation,” the kind which seems to be set up so some people can say “See, we’re promoting competition,” and others can later say “See, free markets don’t work.” The article explains:

Levesque [a customer] wasn’t in danger of having his power cut off because actual electricity generation and transmission aren’t affected by competitive markets; the local utility is always required to keep the lights on.

To a large extent, all that happens in a competitive power market when a customer changes providers is that his financial account is moved from one company’s system to another company’s system, usually after the next monthly reading of his electric meter.

This week’s confusion brought attention to the relatively new field of deregulated residential electricity competition, in which companies other than utilities such as PSNH can also sell power, at rates up to 25 percent lower than the regulated rates charged by utilities.

The competition is in some sort of accounting procedure, not in the delivery of electrical power, and I don’t pretend to understand it. (But PNE claims to have cleaner power sources than PSNH… I really don’t get it.) Actual competition in delivery of electricity would be a lot more complicated to implement; the only actual competing power sources that I can think of are private generators.

Still, the competition in billing results in two things: Better rates for those who can figure out the system and more potential for trouble if you pick the wrong seller. I don’t object to that, but the next time I venture into it I’ll do my homework better.

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