The Public Utility Commission’s proposed regulations establishing additional guidelines for the retail electricity industry went before the Independent Regulatory Review Commission on May 22 for the first step in the review process.

Meanwhile, legislation in the state House of Representatives that likewise would establish new guidelines for the retail electricity market appears stalled over a provision that caps rates on variable contracts.

Both the bill, HB 2104, and the PUC-proposed regulations stem from some Pennsylvania customers with variable-rate contracts seeing their bills skyrocket over the harsh winter.

State Rep. Bob Godshall, R-Montgomery, the bill’s sponsor, said that without rate caps in the legislation or in the regulatory scheme, little will change.

“The only way to truly handle the problem is through a cap on rates,” Godshall said. “Without them, we’ll be going back to the same problem all over again.”

A spokesperson for the PUC said it believes it has no authority to place a cap on rates.

“We believe capping rates is purely a legislative matter,” said PUC press secretary Jennifer Kocher.

One of the provisions in the proposed PUC regulations would reduce the time it takes customers to change electricity suppliers.

“It’s a huge needle-mover, because we want customers to be able to be portable and be able to get into new products and not be trapped in what we call the 16- to 40-day billing cycle,” PUC Chairman Robert F. Powelson said in a statement. “At the end of the day, this is about helping consumers that are actively out there on the market shopping by giving them greater portability, greater notification of the products that they’re being served by suppliers.”

Kocher said another proposed change would provide electric-shopping customers with greater, uniform detail in electric supplier disclosure statements and more timely information on contract renewal and change in terms notices.

If the regulations gain IRRC approval, they would go before the standing consumer affairs committees in the House and Senate.