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.”


Who Hit the Switch?

December 9, 2010

We have been lucky over the pas t few years. We have been blessed with warmer than usual winter temperatures. I know; last year we had some major snowstorms but overall the winter temperatures have been warmer.

Over the last year we have seen the natural gas market prices react to these warmer temperatures. Storage numbers have been at a 5-year high and prices have continued to drop to their lowest sustaining level in the last 3 to 4 years.

Speaking with many energy analysts, they feel we may have hit the bottom and prices will slowly start inching up.

Inching up may be an understatement? Just in the last week, prices jumped over 10%. Hit with the sudden cold front the market took off.

The cost of buying natural gas on the open market is made up of 2 factors. Nymex (gas out of the ground to the banks of Louisiana) and Basis (the transportation cost for getting natural gas delivered to your local provider). These 2 factors combined give us the Index. This is the total wholesale cost to buy natural gas on the open market.

The last couple of weeks have seen the market in a holding pattern. Nymex prices were under $4.00 a decatherm ($.40 cents a therm) and it was a wait and see scenario. Should we have seen continued mild temperatures the market would have remained stable.

With the sudden switch to cold temperatures and forecast for a continued cold snap; the market did not inch up but leapt. Nymex prices open today, as of this writing, at $4.61 a decatherm. Measure this against the low opening on 10/25/10 of $3.29 a decatherm.

Prices are still low compared to where they were 2 to 3 years ago. In 2008, natural gas prices hit a high of $14 to $16 a decatherm ($1.40 to $1.60 a therm). Just last year (2009) we were looking at the average price to compare of around $10.00 a decathem ($1.00 a therm). We are now seeing fixed price positions in the low to mid $6.00 a decatherm range.

Each account is unique and priced individually, for pricing is based on demand factors. Many clients are seasonal clients and their biggest usage comes from heating their locations during the winter. Their natural gas prices would be higher than a client having a more even demand factor, for they use natural gas throughout the year (a restaurant would be a good example).

Some clients have benefited by floating the market, taking advantage of the falling prices over the last couple of years. Now may be the time to begin a discussion and review your options. There is more upside risk (chance of prices raising higher) than there is downside risk (market prices have been at a 4 year low).

You can lock the price going forward for a 1 or 2-year period, which will provide an overall savings from the average prices you have been paying over the last year or at the minimum, lock the winter month which will provide price certainty.

Should you feel this is only a temporary rise in market prices, you may choose to float the market and look for a continued flatness in pricing.

One other option to consider, should the float scenario be of interest, would be to lock the basis (transportation cost) and continue to float the nymex. Several of our clients have found success with this option in the past. This position is normally taken when they see the Nymex as being too high and feel the market will be dropping over time. In the past, if we saw basis price fall under $2.00 this was considered to be a good deal. The current basis prices are well under $2.00.

Should you like to know more about your deregulated gas options email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

The Little Things

November 30, 2010

I was driving down the Garden State Parkway a couple of weeks ago and I was enjoying the full color spectrum of the fall trees. Some of the trees were beginning to lose leaves but looking on a mile or so ahead, it presented a beautiful view. 

I really love this time of year and how God uses the landscape to paint a perfect picture. 

Turning onto the Atlantic City Expressway, I started to notice that the picture was fading. No longer could I see the brilliant colors ahead, for the trees were almost bare once I got to mile marker 13.5. 

I was a little surprised, for you would think that the fall splendor is universal in the area? 

I didn’t realize that there exist little pockets; that have their own hours to shine. 

We all must exist on our own timeline! 

What made mile marker 13.5 the breakpoint? 

That started me thinking. All the little things we just take for granted on a daily basis. 

What made me stop and take notice of the difference? 

Why? 

Because that is part of my character and that is what we do here at HBS. 

We look at the little things, the cost that most companies just take for granted. 

Most of our items are just budgeted for. 

What did we pay last year and how much do you think it may go up? 

     Electric…. Natural Gas…. Voice… Data…. Unemployment Taxes…. Sales Tax 

Need I say more? 

We call these costs the unsung heroes! 

These are daily cost of doing business that most companies tend to ignore. 

We find many people are resistant to change but: 

The only thing constant in life is change!  

Each client is unique. 

Each opportunity opens the door to defining what the client is currently doing; 

Exploring various options and 

Providing solutions, designed to increase efficiency and savings. 

We understand that the current economic climate has been difficult for many businesses. 

HBS provides: 

Smart Solutions for Smart Business

Many times, it is the little things that provide the best opportunities. 

Would you like to know more? Email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230.

Visit us on the web www.hutchinsonbusinesssolutions.com

Where’s The Bottom

November 12, 2010

Natural gas prices continue being very competitive. 

How low will they go? 

Hurricane season does not officially end until November 30th, however it is rare to see a tropical storm in the Gulf this late in the season. The 2010 Atlantic Hurricane season was very active this year, with 19 named storms. The last time I looked we were up to T for Toma. 

Here we are heading into the end of November and natural gas nymex prices are still under $4.00. 

Where is the bottom? 

Without a crystal ball, this ends up being a very difficult question to answer. 

When you look at the overall picture not much has changed, Storage levels are still at a 5-year high and holding. It has been like that for several years now.

 We do have the Marcellus gas in Western PA. Some geologists estimate that it could yield enough gas to supply the entire East Coast for 50 years.

 That must prove to be the major factor. It is the old supply demand scenario?

The bottom line states, that if your business is currently spending a minimum of $3000 a month and you are still with the local provider, you should be looking at buying natural gas from a 3rd party provider in the deregulated market.

Did you know that if you are a PSEG customer, you ended up paying 15% higher for natural gas over the last year?

How much savings would that have equated for your company?

With natural gas prices being so low we have also seen this translate into very competitive deregulated electric prices. We recently signed a client the other day and they will be saving 30% on their electric supply cost for the next 2 years.

I know that savings is a parity of how much you spend but let me ask again.

How much savings would that have equated for your company?

If you are currently spending over $3000 a month on electric and your company is still with the local provider, you should be looking at buying electric from a 3rd party provider in the deregulated market.

To find out more about this opportunity email george@hbsadvantage.com or feel free to call 856-857-1230.

Deflated

October 25, 2010

It was a tough weekend.

First, the Phillies; expectations were high. We were supposed to win. 

Did anyone tell the Giants? Either someone forgot or they were not listening. I have been accused of that; it is called selective hearing. Most husbands have been accused of that. 

Either way the Boys of Summer loss their mojo and could not even come up with hits. Especially when runners were on the bases. Think of how the game ended. Runners on first and second; 2 outs; down by 1 run and Ryan Howard works up a 3-2 count. 

Now what were we all taught way back in little league? 

This goes back to basics! When you have a 3-2 count, you protect the plate. You swing at anything that could remotely be called a strike. You don’t look at a 3rd strike!

 After all the ups and downs thru the season, we end up feeling deflated.

 Wait till next year. Spring training starts in 103 days. This may be of little solace.

 What happened to this year? The season seems to have ended prematurely.

Well, we can always turn our attention to the Eagles. They have been on a roll, 4-2 going into Sunday’s game with Tennessee.

 Kolb….Vick……….Vick…Kolb

Seems like a good problem for Andy Reid to have? They have both elevated their game and are playing at a high level. Can they remain healthy?

The defense has been putting pressure on the quarterback, controlling the run and not allowing the other teams gain any momentum.

The receivers seem to be having a protective shield around them. Taking the ball downfield, sometimes almost scoring at will.

That was until yesterdays’ 4th quarter disaster against Tennessee. 27 points? Don’t you love when they start playing the prevent defense? A recipe for disaster, bend; don’t stretch. Who came up with that defense anyway?

For Philadelphia fans it was a weekend that took the wind out of our sails. It left all the diehard fans feeling deflated. The old kick in the gut never seems to feel good but we keep coming back.

There’s always next game, next week, next season.

Philly….don’t you just love it?

Now you may be thinking why is he talking about philly sports and how does the word deflated tie into HBS?

Good question.

Most of the time when you think of the word deflated it tends to have a negative connotation. However, for us, the word can be seen in a positive context.

When the utility market is deflated, that means the commodity (natural gas and electric) market prices are down, which translate into savings for you, the client.

How much has the natural gas price index dropped?

From its’ high of $14.34 a decatherm in July 2008, it has slowly dropped over 70% during the past 2 years. In October 2010, the index was $4.12 a decatherm.

Pretty amazing!

Where’s the bottom? Some analysts think we may have neared the bottom and prices will start inching up, especially now that winter is just ahead of us. However, should we see warmer winter temperatures prevail, we may see prices drop even further.

HBS has been advising our clients to take advantage of the downside.

You may choose to lock in on a price for a 1 or 2 year term, thereby protecting yourself from market fluctuations or you may choose to float the market index and take advantage of the current downside savings.

With falling natural gas prices, you will also see this will reflect in lower prices for the deregulated electric market prices.

Why you may ask?

Well, 30% of the electric in the US is generated by natural gas. So natural gas seems to be a natural indicator on electric prices. As natural gas prices go down, so do electric prices.

If you are a business spending a minimum of $5000 a month for either natural gas or electric, you should be looking at the savings being found in the deregulated market.

Since deregulation started in the late 1990’s, the local providers were told they could no longer be in the supply business. You may choose to get your natural gas or electric from a 3rd party provider or you may continue receiving your supply from the local provider at a default price which is normally higher than the deregulated market price.

Many of our clients find out they do qualify and are taking advantage of this deregulated opportunity.

If you like to know more, email george@hbsadvantage.com

We know that the economy has been tough on business. However, HBS has found a silver lining by bringing deregulated utility saving to our clients.

To find out if you qualify, all we need is a copy of you latest natural gas or electric bill from your local provider. We will also need a letter of authorization that will allow us to pull the annual usage for your account(s). With this information, we will be able to validate what you are currently paying and present what opportunity for savings may be available for you.

Now is the time to take deflated utility prices and let them work for you.

Let the savings fall to the bottom line!

You may find it brings a smile to your face.

I think we just dodged a bullet! Last week the meteorologists were having a field day tracking this massive storm that was supposed to hit the east coast. High winds, heavy rains. Normally, when we get a bye, the storm sweeps out into the ocean. This storm actually went inland, west of the I95 corridor. Sad to say, they did get substantial flooding.

Why am I talking about the weather, you may ask? Because this is my article, I can choose a topic. Seriously! … Because weather plays a very big part of monitoring natural gas commodity cost.

The current natural gas prices are still the lowest they have been in the last 4 years. September’s NY Index price (the price that providers buy gas) was $.39 cents a therm compare this to $1.41 in July 2008. Quite a difference! Why, you may ask?

First of all, natural gas storage levels continue to be at a 5 year high. Add to that, the shale natural gas that been found in western PA. They are saying this could provide natural gas to the US for the next 100 years.

It is the old supply and demand theory, until the market deems it appropriate to ignore.

For now, market activity show that this is a great time to be buying gas in the deregulated natural gas market. Remember, that since deregulation, the local providers are no longer in the supply business. Therefore they charge you a default rate, which in normally higher. They buy natural gas wholesale and bill their customers’ retail.

HBS puts our clients in a wholesale position. Our clients are finding saving from 10% upto 20+%, depending on who your local provider is.

Since 30% of the electric is generated from natural gas, it also plays an important influence to the current market electric prices. They are also at a 4-year low.

To qualify your commercial natural gas or electric bill should be a minimum of $3000 a month each. Many of our clients are finding substantial saving in the deregulated utility market.

Should you like to know more about savings in the deregulated natural gas and electric market email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230.

Posted by Nicole on August 27, 2010 at 10:00 am as appeared in Rainy Day Saver

For years, utility companies had a monopoly in a number of areas: electricity and gas, finance, transportation and communication. But in the past decade, federal and state governments have chosen to deregulate certain utilities and encourage free market competition. Why wouldn’t you want the freedom to choose which company provides your electricity, especially if the rates are cheaper than the one company that had control of the market for decades?

A co-worker recently mentioned that she was switching utility supply providers from PSE&G, which was the only electric and gas provider for households across northern New Jersey for ages.  These energy utilities have supply and delivery charges, at different rates, depending on how much electricity or gas units are used. By changing the supply provider, the per-unit charge will be reduced from ~.12 to ~.09. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it will make a big difference in the winter, when the heat is on, and in the summers, when air conditioning use is in full force.

There are a number of alternative energy providers out there, and it may pay for you to check out their rates and compare them to your current utility provider. For us, if we switched our energy supplier, PSE&G would still provide the method of delivery through its power lines and natural gas piping; those costs will be included on your bill. But the delivery charges are generally lower than the supply charges.

Regulation History

The initial outlay for all of the communication, electric and gas lines crisscrossing America was a lot of money for the companies who decided to invest in these burgeoning markets. To protect the companies’ investments, the federal government regulated these industries, eliminating competition. While the intent was good, this led to the monopolization of these industries and a lack of choice for consumers, who were forced to accept whatever rates were charged.

This eventually led to companies having too much of a say within the government regulatory committees, and consumer interests fell by the wayside. Eventually, a deregulation movement started in the 1970s, affecting transportation and, to a lesser degree, energy companies. Over time, each state has made the decision whether to deregulate or leave the old regulation policies in place.

A number of states (including my state of New Jersey) have deregulated both natural gas and electric utilities; some just offer one or the other; and then there are the nearly two dozen that still heavily regulate the industries.

Our Perspective:

Deregulation began in 1997 to bring competition to the utility market. If you are a business and you natural gas and electric bills are currently rnning more than $5000 a piece, you should be looking at the opportunities for savings.

Both natural gas and electric market prices are at the lowest they have been in over 4 years. Or clients are saving from 10% upto 25% based on their usage patterns.

To learn more email george@hbsadvantage.com. We offer a free review of your current cost and will find the right supplier for your company to maximize savings.

The deregulated utility market has presented a great opportunity for savings over the last year. For the first time in 3 to 4 years, market prices have been less than the providers’ prices, aiding in a windfall to those looking to save money on utilities.

 If you have been tracking natural gas prices, you would see that the market has dropped close to 20% since the end of June 2010.

 Natural Gas

With the steady fall of natural gas prices, HBS has been advising clients to float the market index position to take advantage of the current market prices. If you are a PSEG customer and chose to float the wholesale market over the past 12 months, you would have realized a 17% savings. Not bad!!!  South Jersey Gas clients would have saved 8%.

When speaking to our clients, we still offer an option to fix the price for a 12-month period, however it doesn’t make too much sense to fix a price that is actually higher than the price to compare that the clients have been paying over the last 12 months. Why is the price higher? Because the future market still shows that prices will go up.

Some clients may choose to fix the price for they want certainty in their cost. They do not want to be effected by market fluctuations. However if you lock the price, you are unable to change the price should the market continue to go down. By floating the market index, you can take advantage of the lower price and should the market turn and start to shoot up, you will have the option to lock in a price at a later option.

Electric

The electric market is directly affected by the natural gas market prices for 30% of electricity is generated by natural gas. So natural gas is commonly used as a market indicator. With the current fall of natural gas prices, electric prices continue to fall and have become even more competitive.

The electric market is completely different than the natural gas market. While natural gas prices change monthly with the local provider based on market conditions, the electric prices are fixed from June till May.

Every February, the state holds an auction for those selling electricity in New Jersey. The local providers buy electricity on the open market and blend the results with the electric it has purchased over the last 2 years. So the current market prices that the local providers charge are based on a blended price from purchasing electric over the last 3 years. They take these results and then present a proposal to the BPU (Board of Public Utilities), as to the summer rates (June till Sept) and winter rates (Oct to May) they wish to charge. Both the summer rates and winter rates have defined on-peak and off peak pricing.

As a result each account is charged differently based on their usage. A company with more off peak usage will actually be paying less than a company whose prime usage is during the daytime when on-peak charges are used.

Fixing your electric cost in the deregulated market offers a flat rate pricing no matter when you use it. This has offered a great savings opportunity due to the current market downturn. HBS clients are realizing saving from 10% to 20% on current flat rate pricing.

Should you like to know more about saving in the deregulated utility market, email george@hbsadvantage.com or call 856-857-1230.

PSEG Electricity

August 13, 2010

As reported by PSEG

About Deregulation

Before Deregulation 

Prior to New Jersey’s restructuring, PSE&G was responsible for generating electricity, transmitting the power to all regions of their service territory, distributing the power to the individual homes and businesses, and billing and service issues.  In addition, they were also responsible for all repairs to the electric lines and equipment.

After Deregulation

As a result of the New Jersey Energy Choice Program, the different responsibilities of the utilities were “unbundled” and the power industry was separated into four divisions: generation, transmission, and distribution, and energy services. The generation sector has been deregulated and, as a result, utilities are no longer the sole producers of electricity. The transmission and distribution sectors remain subject to regulation – either by the federal government or the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.   No matter which electricity supplier you choose, PSE&G will continue to service the transmission and distribution sectors of your electricity.

Competition is allowed between companies to provide power at discounted rates and superb customer service directly to customers. These companies are licensed by the state of New Jersey.  You also have the opportunity to work with an electricity broker or consultant who can compare different offers and provide additional services to help manage your energy spending.

In most cases, PSE&G will continue to send you your utility bill.  So the only thing that changes if you shop for a better rate is that better rate.

Our Perspective:

Deregulation of utilities has open the door to great opportunities for savings if you are a commercial or industrial customer using over $5000 a month of electric.

The local provider (PSEG and AC Elecric) buy energy on the wholesale market and then bills their clients at retail prices. Hutchinson Business Solutions (HBS) puts our clients in the wholesale position.

The savings fall to the bottom line.

HBS is an independent energy management consultant who has strategic partnerships with all the major deregulated energy providers selling energy in NJ and PA. Our clients are finding savings ranging from 10% upto 25% in the deregulated energy market.

Each account is unique. Your current pricing is based on summer/ winter pricing and also on peak and off peak usages. We will do a complete evaluation of your annual usages and shop the market to find the best provider that will offer low fixed priced savings.

To learn more about deregulated saving email george@hbsadvantage.com

Abby Gruen/The Star-Ledger  posted Jun 07,2010

New Jersey’s largest utility, PSE&G, was granted a 1.9 percent electric rate increase today, confirming a settlement reached May 27 of their year-long bid to raise money from ratepayers for capital improvements.

The Newark-based utilities’ request to also increase gas rates was deferred by the commissioners of the Board of Public Utilities because there was not unanimous agreement on a settlement of that case.

The $73.5 million in additional electric revenue awarded by the BPU today is a fraction of the $147 million requested. The average residential electric customer will see their monthly bills increase by $12.40 per year, or 0.89 percent.

PSE&G had originally asked the board to approve $230 million in additional revenue, which would have resulted in a return on common equity of 11.25 percent. Today they were granted a 10.3 percent return on equity.

“Given current capital market conditions, we felt this was a reasonable return,” said Mark Beyer, chief economist for the BPU, at the public hearing in Newark today.

PSE&G’s request to increase gas bills by 1 percent, or $14.32 per year for the average residential gas customer,was agreed to in a settlement reached last week by the utility and the BPU, the Public Advocate and the Large Energy Users’ Coalition; but Morris Energy Group, which represents wholesale gas customers, opposed the settlement.

The matter will likely be taken up at the next BPU board meeting on June 18th, said Lee Solomon, president of the board.

The president and COO of PSE&G, Ralph LaRossa said in a press release: “We need to strike a balance between the need for additional revenue and today’s tough economic realities, We will take whatever steps are necessary to operate our business within the parameters of this decision.”

The BPU also approved a settlement on an eight-year-old case by the Division of Rate Counsel, that will make PSE&G repay ratepayers for fees it overcollected since it was deregulated in 1999. Average electric customers will get back roughly $11 on their monthly bills per year for the next two years.

The BPU dismissed a 2007 petition claiming overcollection of charges related to deregulation, called stranded costs, filed by Richard G. Murphy II, and supported by the Chemistry Council of New Jersey and other ratepayer groups.

“The utility is being reimbursed for something that didn’t occur, and the BPU did not address that today,” said Daniel Sponseller, an attorney representing Murphy. Murphy and his supporters intend to ask the BPU to reconsider their decision.

A claim made in the rate case by the Large Energy User’s Coalition that PSEG Power has received preferential treatment from PSE&G by avoiding payment of fees other power providers pay, including societal benefits charges, was not addressed by the board today.

“We stand by our call for a freeze on rates until the issue of whether Public Service is paying its fair share of societal benefits charges is resolved,” said Ev Liebman, director of program advocacy for New Jersey Citizen Action. “Based on information that came out of this rate case, there are indications that we should be getting even more back for ratepayers.”