Posted on Sun, Jan. 16, 2011

By Andrew Maykuth

Inquirer Staff Writer

Pearl Rosenbloom and her neighbors in South Jersey have been getting lots of sales calls lately encouraging them to switch from Public Service Electric & Gas Co. to alternative power suppliers.

The pitches are often long on enthusiasm, but short on facts.

“When you ask for details, they just say, ‘You’re going to save money!’ ” Rosenbloom said.

The Burlington County resident looks longingly across the Delaware River, where Peco Energy Co. customers are rapidly moving into a market-rate environment.

Pennsylvania residential customers have access to a wealth of comparative information on rates assembled by the Public Utility Commission or the state Office of the Consumer Advocate.

But in New Jersey, where suppliers are offering residential discounts of 12 percent and more, consumers are largely on their own when it comes to assessing the data.

“We don’t know what to do,” Rosenbloom said.

J. Gregory Reinert, the communications director of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, said there were too many offerings for Garden State regulators to manage the data on behalf of customers.

“We do not provide comparison data of third-party suppliers or utilities,” he said.

“Customers need to do comparison shopping by either calling or visiting the websites of each company to review the tariffs or promotions, and make their own comparisons and decisions,” Reinert said.

New Jersey’s approach stands in contrast to the model states lauded in a recent industry study of electricity deregulation. Advocates of market rates say competition helps suppress electrical costs by encouraging more efficiency and conservation.

Nat Treadway, the managing director of a Houston firm that conducts an annual assessment of restructured markets, in December singled out Pennsylvania’s system for praise.

In most deregulated states, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania, customers are free to choose the company that generates their electricity, which makes up the biggest part of their bill. Traditional utilities, such as PSE&G and Peco, are solely distributors of power and do not make money off power generation – even on the electricity they buy on behalf of customers who do not switch.

Treadway, managing partner of the Distributed Energy Financial Group, said the best markets for encouraging electrical choice were in Texas and New York.

By contrast, Treadway called New Jersey’s restructured residential market “marginal.”

Ronald M. Cerniglia, director of governmental and regulator affairs for Direct Energy Services L.L.C., a large electricity marketer operating in several states, called New Jersey’s marketplace “suboptimal.”

He said the best competitive markets set up rules that encourage alternative suppliers to do business while still providing traditional consumer protections.

Regulators in thriving markets also make efforts to educate customers. One way is to maintain websites with neutral cost comparisons.

The Pennsylvania PUC’s papowerswitch.com lists most current suppliers, and some of their offerings. The Texas and New York utility commissions operate sophisticated websites that allow consumers to search for competitive offers by zip code: powertochoose.org and newyorkpowertochoose.com.

The New Jersey BPU rolled out a website for power-shopping after it opened electricity markets to competition in 1999, part of a $13.5 million promotional effort.

But New Jersey’s rates were still rigidly structured, and residential suppliers stayed away. The BPU’s website was abandoned in 2003 and the domain name was taken over by a Spanish pornography site, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Only in the last year have alternative suppliers planted their flags in New Jersey’s residential markets. As of November, 98,700 customers out of New Jersey’s 3.3 million households had switched to alternative suppliers, up from a mere 213 households in 2009.

By comparison, Peco Energy Co. says 96,000 of its residential customers have switched suppliers, most in the two weeks since rate caps were lifted Jan. 1.

The BPU provides the names of suppliers on its website, but the list appears to be out of date. South Jersey Energy Co. is listed as a residential electrical supplier even though it has been “out of residential for a number of years,” according to Joanne Brigandi, a company spokeswoman.

And in some cases, it is difficult for New Jersey customers to locate even the most basic information from which they can make an informed choice.

PSE&G’s basic-generation service – the price to compare – is listed as 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour on some alternative suppliers’ websites.

PSE&G spokeswoman Karen A. Johnson confirmed Friday that the utility’s price to compare is 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Several suppliers are offering discounts below either price. They are listed above.

Our Perspective:

Hutchinson Business Solutions has been providing deregulated energy management solutions to our business clients for over 10years. Although we currently do not serve the residential markets in deregulated states, I found it prudent to offer some insight to the many residential clients now seeking savings in the deregulated electric market.

Since NewJersey just introduced the opportunity to their residents in the spring of 2010 and Pennsylvania in January 2011, many people have jumped on the band wagon selling electric. 

We get several calls daily from 0ur clients asking questions about saving for their home electric. The first thing that I caution them is to make sure the price that is being presnted is fully loaded and contains all the factors that are included to make a cost to compare analysis. Does it include a 7% loss allowance (to deliver 100 kw of electric you must send 107 kw for there is a 7% is line loss in the delivery of the electricity)  and 7% sales tax. These factors are included in the PSEG and AC Electric price to compare.

The second thing we caution clients to look for is a fixed price. Natural gas prices are the lowest they have been in the last 3 to 4 years. Although they have spiked recently due to the winter cold, prices are still very attractive. Thirty % (30%) of the electric generated in the US is made with natural gas. Because of this, natural gas prices serve as a stong indicator used for electric market prices. By choosing a fixed price, you can lock your position for a 1 or 2 year period.

Variable pricing does not provide this opportunity and is therefore a more riskier decision at this time.

Proceed with caution and make sure to get all the facts before choosing a deregulated residential electric provider.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/inquirer/business/20110116_New_Jersey_consumers_perplexed_by_elecric-power_options.html?viewAll=y#ixzz1BFl4JZXL
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Economic View

 

 

BY the time President Obama gave his State of the Union address last year, the speech felt like an old friend. It had been part of my life — from the brainstorming sessions in late November 2009 to the last minute fact-checking. I knew when all of my favorite lines were coming. That led to an awkward moment during the address when I sprang to my feet, applauding the president’s tacit endorsement of the free-trade agreement with South Korea, before noticing that the only other person cheering seemed to be Ron Kirk, the special trade representative.

David G. Klein

 

This year, instead of being on the floor of Congress with the rest of the cabinet, I will be watching on television with the rest of the country. Instead of knowing what is coming, I can write about what I hope the president will say. My hope is that the centerpiece of the speech will be a comprehensive plan for dealing with the long-run budget deficit.

I am not talking about two paragraphs lamenting the problem and vowing to fix it. I am looking for pages and pages of concrete proposals that the administration is ready to fight for. The recommendations of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that the president created are a very good place to start.

The need for such a bold plan is urgent — both politically and economically. Voters made it clear last November that they were fed up with red ink. President Obama should embrace the reality that his re-election may depend on facing up to the budget problem.

The economic need is also pressing. The extreme deficits of the last few years are largely a consequence of the terrible state of the economy and the actions needed to stem the downturn. But even with a strong recovery, under current policy the deficit is projected to be more than 6 percent of gross domestic product in 2020. By 2035, if the twin tsunami of rising health care costs and the retirement of the baby boomers hits with full force, we will be looking at deficits of at least 15 percent of G.D.P.

Such deficits are not sustainable. At some point — likely well before 2035 — investors would revolt and the United States would be unable to borrow. We would become the Argentina of the 21st century.

So what should the president say and do? First, he should make clear that the issue is spending and taxes over the coming decades, not spending in 2011. Republicans in Congress have pledged to cut nonmilitary, non-entitlement spending in 2011 by $100 billion (less if recent reports are correct). Such a step would do nothing to address the fundamental drivers of the budget problem, and would weaken the economy when we are only beginning to recover.

Instead, the president should outline major cuts in spending that would go into effect over the next few decades, and that he wants to sign into law in 2011.

Respected analysts across the ideological spectrum agree that rising health care spending is the biggest source of the frightening long-run deficit projections. That is why the president made cost control central to health reform legislation. He should vow not just to veto a repeal of the legislation, but to fight to strengthen its cost-containment mechanisms.

One important provision of the law was the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which must propose reforms if Medicare spending exceeds the target rate of growth. But the legislation exempted some providers and much government health spending from the board’s purview. The president should work to give the board a broader mandate for cost control.

The fiscal commission recommended that military spending — which has risen by more than 50 percent in real terms since 2001 — grow much more slowly in the future. It also proposed thoughtful ways to slow the growth of Social Security spending while protecting the disabled and the poor. And it recommended caps on nonmilitary, non-entitlement spending.

President Obama needs to explain that while these cuts will be painful, there is no way to solve our budget problem without shared sacrifice. At the same time, he should give a ringing endorsement of government investment in infrastructure, research and education, which increases productivity and thus improves both our standard of living and the budget situation over time. And, following the fiscal commission, he should ensure that spending cuts not fall on the disadvantaged.

Finally, the president has to be frank about the need for more tax revenue. Even with bold spending cuts, there will still be a large deficit. The only realistic way to close the gap is by raising revenue. Some of it can and should come from higher taxes on the rich. But because there are far more middle-class families than wealthy ones, much of the additional money will have to come from ordinary people. Since any agreement will have to be bipartisan, Congressional Republicans will have to come to terms with this fact as well.

AGAIN, the fiscal commission has made sensible proposals. It recommended broad tax reform that lowers marginal tax rates and cuts tax expenditures — deductions and exemptions for mortgage interest, employer-provided benefits, charitable giving, and so on. Such tax reform cannot be revenue-neutral — it needs to increase tax receipts. But it can make the system simpler, fairer and more efficient while doing so.

Limiting the exemption of employer-provided health benefits would have the further advantage of making companies and workers more cost-conscious about health care.

Another revenue measure should be a tax on polluting energy. Basic economics says that something that has widespread adverse effects should be taxed. A gradual increase in the gasoline tax would raise revenue and encourage the development of cleaner energy sources. A broader carbon tax would be even better.

None of these changes should be immediate. With unemployment at 9.4 percent and the economy constrained by lack of demand, it would be heartless and counterproductive to move to fiscal austerity in 2011. Indeed, the additional fiscal stimulus passed in the lame-duck session — particularly the payroll tax cut and the unemployment insurance extension — is the right policy for now. But legislation that gradually and persistently trims the deficit would not harm the economy today. Indeed, it could increase demand by raising confidence and certainty.

The president has a monumental task. It’s extremely hard to build consensus around a deficit reduction plan that will be painful and unpopular with powerful interest groups. The only way to do so is to marshal the good sense and patriotism of the American people. That process should start with the State of the Union.

Christina D. Romer is an economics professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and was the chairwoman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.

By Andrew Maykuth

Inquirer Staff Writer

Posted Jan. 13, 2011

A coalition of electrical-power interests is encouraging New Jersey Gov. Christie to veto a controversial bill that would subsidize development of a Gloucester County power plant that they say would unsettle the region’s energy markets.

The bill’s sponsors said the legislation approved Tuesday by the New Jersey Legislature would lower energy rates. But opponents, including power generators such as Exelon Corp. and large industrial consumers, call it an anticompetitive sweetheart deal that will cost consumers in the long run.

“We cannot afford an energy surcharge to guarantee billions of dollars of revenue to a few select developers,” said George M. Waidelich, vice president of energy operations for Safeway Inc., which says it now spends about $2 million a year on electricity for its five Genuardi’s stores in South Jersey.

The measure would provide a guaranteed long-term income for developers of several large power plants. The legislation was known as the “LS Power Bill” because its initial aim was to provide guarantees for LS Power Development L.L.C. to build a giant natural-gas power plant in West Deptford, the hometown of state Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester).

Tom Hoatson, director of regulatory affairs for LS Power, said the guarantees were necessary to obtain financing to construct the 640-megawatt plant along the Delaware River, which would cost from $800 million to $1 billion.

Hoatson said the bill would provide the New Brunswick company “an opportunity to compete with other generators.” The plant would employ up to 500 people to build and about 25 people to operate.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said the bill was under review. Legislative sources said the governor was expected to sign it because his office was consulted in drafting amendments that addressed some of the administration’s concerns.

In the arcane world of wholesale electrical markets, the New Jersey bill has attracted intense attention because its opponents say it would turn back the clock on years of efforts to open electrical-power markets to more competition.

But supporters of the legislation say those markets, which are managed by regional power-grid operator PJM Interconnection Inc., have failed to lower prices for N.J. residents.

And they say that many of the interests opposed to the N.J. legislation are incumbent power generators like Exelon Corp. and Public Service Enterprise Group of Newark, which stand to gain by keeping new power generators out of the market.

“I don’t think it’s a system that encourages building new generation to keep prices down,” said Stefanie Brand, the New Jersey Rate Counsel, the state’s consumer advocate.

“The market is not a true free market,” she said. “It’s a constructed market that was created by PJM, and as far as we’re concerned, it doesn’t work.”

N.J. officials complain that the Garden State has suffered more than its western neighbors because it has paid up to $1.9 billion a year in extra capacity and congestion charges that PJM imposes on power transmitted into the state.

Lee A. Solomon, a Christie appointee who is president of the N.J. Board of Public Utilities, told PJM in December that “it is incumbent upon New Jersey to promote new generation in locations where it is needed the most to ensure reliability and to control costs.”

Sweeney, whose West Deptford hometown would host the LS plant, introduced the legislation that would allow the board to sign long-term contracts with several power generators to provide up to 2,000 megawatts of electricity at guaranteed rates. If market rates fall below the threshold, N.J. ratepayers would pick up the tab.

“Consumers have been paying inflated capacity charges,” said Derek Roseman, Sweeney’s spokesman. “This is a chance to reverse that. How can that not be a good thing for consumers?”

The Compete Coalition, a Washington lobbying group that promotes open electrical markets, has appealed to Christie’s antitax sentiments by branding the bill the “Energy Tax of 2011.”

John E. Shelk, president of the Electric Power Supply Association, testified in December that the bill would “artificially depress” rates in the short term, but would discourage other generators from investing in the future.

Shelk said the bill likely would be challenged because it would interfere with federally sanctioned wholesale power markets.

Public Service Enterprise Group, the politically powerful Newark energy company that operates the PSE&G utility, announced its opposition to the measure last week.

Anne Hoskins, the company’s senior vice president for public affairs, said the state’s intervention in the past requiring utilities to enter into long-term supply contracts had “disastrous results.”

In the next six years, PSE&G will pay $1 billion for the remaining costs of the long-term contracts, she said. And Atlantic City Electric recently received approval to raise its customers’ bills 5 percent to recover the costs of its out-of-market contracts.

“Subsidies are a slippery slope,” she said, “and will drive away other nonsubsidized private investment in New Jersey.”


Welcome G5

January 13, 2011

 

On Saturday January 8th 2011, George Henry Hutchinson V was born into our family.

 Welcome G5!!!!

The proud parents are Caroline and George IV. Everyone is healthy and Caroline and G5 were release from the hospital on Tuesday January 11th. It is a proud day for all the Hutchinsons and Cooks.

Five generation of Georges. That’s quite a feat. In fact, I am the only George that has had the pleasure to know all 5 of the Georges. I am sure my Grandfather and Father are beaming to know that the name lives on.

This legacy almost never happened. When my mother was pregnant with me, my father wanted to name the baby Daniel Paul Hutchinson.  My Grandfather, an astute man, said maybe you should name this one George Henry Hutchinson 111, and you can name the next one Daniel Paul. He must have known something, for we ended up having 5 girls in our family.

The legacy would have ended before it even began.

When Janet and I got married and we found out she was pregnant I was careful not to be too pushy. We looked at baby names both boys and girls. When she gave birth and was asked what she wanted to name the new baby, she smiled at me and said George Henry Hutchinson IV. My heart jumped; what an honor.

My father was sooo pleased that he would stop by our house almost every morning, walk in, look at George IV and turn to Janet and say, “Thank You.”

So here’s to G5!!!!

May you have many great years, live life to the fullest, aspire to achieve and have many friends.  

May love always live in your heart.

God Bless You.

Love,

Pop

Happy New Year

January 7, 2011

Where did 2010 go? 

Not that long ago….. I was sitting on the beach, reading a book, drinking a Bloody Mary and letting the water run up over my toes.

Each year seems to fly by faster and faster.

2010 was a pretty great year.  We had some very memorable moments in the Hutchinson household:

Our eldest son George IV got married in 2010 and he and his wife Caroline are now expecting George Henry Hutchinson V….. (G 5)…. in early to mid-January. Five generations of George Henrys. Can it get any better than that!!!!!

Our second son Brenton, bought his first house in 2010 and got engaged last summer. I guess that first time homebuyer incentive really put a bug in his ear (or maybe it was Meghan). A June 2012 wedding is in the works.

After 27 months living in Peru and serving in the Peace Corp, our little girl Elizabeth came home in the beginning of August. It is quite a treat having her back on US soil, soaking up that vibrant Hutchinson smile. She wasted no time in finding a great job and has just bought her first new car. Don’t get in her way, she is on a tear!

Our youngest son Grant is in mid stride of his junior year at Temple, where he is a film major. Over the past 3 years he has written, filmed and starred in several short films, all have been great. Besides that, he has a budding musical career, writing and performing songs with his band. Slowly making inroads to the Phila. music and film scene.

Janet and I have both been blessed. We will admit it. We are proud of all our children. They done good and made us proud.

My Pop always said that he was careful when bragging about his kids, for they always end up doing something that would kick him in the arss.

How could he possibly say that about me? I am sticking to my story.

With 2011 now in bloom, I will be going away this weekend for my 29th retreat in Malvern, PA.

My father invited up to Malvern right after our first child was born. He asked me if I would like to go on a retreat with him in January.  I said, “What is a retreat?”  Always the coy…. He says, “Why don’t we go and find out.”

I must say, it has changed my life.

We always find ourselves living on the go……Always doing…..

Where’s my to do list?

Let’s see…..

First, I ‘ll do this….

 then I can do that….

and that will give me time to get this done

 and then I’ll rest.

The problem is that by the time you get to the rest part, you have already started another list.

Blackberry in hand and you are going……

fielding calls, replying to emails, setting appointments….go, go, go!!!

We are always doing and never taking the time

To just stop and listen……

Going on retreat the first weekend of each year presents the time to just stop….

And Reflect……

What activities, circumstances and events have brought me to where I am today?

What gifts or talents have I been given?

Have I used and developed these gifts or talents?

Has it been only for  my benefit?

Or was I willing to share?

What have you achieved?

Would you have done something or anything differently?

What do you see in your mind’s eye for 2011?

What am I looking to achieve?

What can I  do better?

What are we looking to pass onto the next generation?

These are things we keep pushing out,

because they are too personal and they do not fit on our to do list.

I am not trying to be preachy….

These are questions we are uncomfortable with, for we start to measure our self.

I know, I know……

I am my own worst critic,

Just don’t hold me accountable.

Going on retreat, you find yourself sharing the weekend with those looking to address the same questions.

Beside the quiet time to reflect,

You will also share great conversations and insights.

It has been thru these retreats that I have grown.

In closing, I would like to thank all of you who are not just clients or associates but…..

Friends.

Thru your friendships’ I have grown, which inspires me to do more in 2011.

HAPPY NEW YEARS!!!!!!!!

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